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Q&A: Terry Holton, CEO of Seaboard Foods
Name: Terry Holton
Title: CEO of Seaboard Foods
Background: Holton joined Seaboard Foods in 1994 as vice president of processor sales and played a key role in developing customer-driven products such as PrairieFresh Premium Pork and the PrairieFresh Prime Cook-in Bag product line.
In his 21 years with Seaboard Foods, the last four as president and CEO, Terry Holton has helped transition the company from a start-up operation with 20,000 sows in 1994, to a leading pork production and processing company anchored in Guymon, Oklahoma.
Today, Seaboard Foods is in expansion mode. A new packing plant, a joint venture with farmer-owned Triumph Foods, is under construction in Sioux City, Iowa, and sow farms are being acquired and expanded.
SF: What is the status of the new Seaboard Triumph Foods plant in Iowa?
TH: The plant will be operational in July 2017. We are starting to pour footings now. Construction is on track or slightly ahead. Barring weather, nothing will stop the progress. It will take about a year after it opens to ramp up to full capacity, operating single shift and employing about 1,100.
SF: What is your strategy for growth?
TH: Our live production side is expanding because of the new plant. Our sow numbers are 260,000 today, with the acquisition of a portion of the sows from Christensen Farms in Iowa and another 5,000 sows we added in Guymon. [Seaboard had 217,000 sows last year.]
Right now, we have more sows than we need until the new plant is operating. We will be assessing all options over the next year or so as we get closer to the new plant opening.
SF: This is the first real growth in live production for Seaboard in 13 years. Why now?
TH: For us, the catalyst was having a new plant. Obviously, we’re in an expansion mode because we recognized the opportunity for growth in the industry. With our partner Triumph Foods, we will control 15% of the industry slaughter when the plant is at full capacity, and we will coordinate our live production operations with the needs of the new plant.
SF: What are the advantages of a new processing plant?
TH: New plants operate more efficiently because of optimal layout and design along with advanced technology. We felt like we built a great plant in Guymon and then the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph was even better. This new one has additional capabilities and newer technology.
SF: What is the relationship between Seaboard and Triumph Foods?
TH: Seaboard Foods has an agreement to market and sell essentially all of the products produced at the Triumph Foods St. Joseph, Missouri, plant. Seaboard Foods and Triumph Foods have a 50-50 partnership in Daily’s Premium Meats, and now a 50-50 partnership in the Sioux City plant. Our relationship continues to get stronger as we have become closer together over time.
SF: What are the economics in the pork industry?
TH: As we all know, the commodity markets can experience a lot of volatility, and current live production is on the lower end. However, we are in it for the long haul, and our decision-making isn’t influenced by the ups and downs of the markets. Instead, we’re looking at the long-term opportunities.
SF: Any worries?
TH: We will keep a close eye on demand. The export market is key, and we must pay attention to the changing landscape of consumer demand, both internationally as well as domestically.
SF: Any other production strategies?
TH: We will monitor and evaluate consumer demand, and continue the dialogue with our customers about bigger production issues, such as group housing, ractopamine [a feed additive to promote leanness] and antibiotics.