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Private equity firm acquires family-owned Foster Farms; Kelso plant to continue as usual | Local Business

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A private equity firm has taken over Foster Farms, a family-owned company that employs roughly 700 people at its Kelso plant.

Atlas Holdings announced Tuesday the Connecticut-based firm acquired the poultry company, which generates about $3 billion in annual revenue, as food prices, including chicken, continue to rise.

Kelso Foster Farms General Manager Jason Gentemann said he does not expect changes to local operations nor the facility’s union in light of the acquisition.

The United Food & Commercial Workers 555 union represents the facility’s workers and negotiated a five-year contract in December to include increased wages and the company’s first matching 401(k) plan.

The Kelso plant has more than 100 open positions, said Gentemann, and the company has “full commitment from the new leadership” to fill positions quickly.

Gentemann said new leaders visited the 13th Avenue site Wednesday.

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“They’ve already been here to see the facility and talk to the employees and assure them that Foster Farms has a good future,” Gentemann said.

Rising poultry prices

Atlas Holdings named Donnie Smith as CEO of Foster Farms. Smith held the same title from 2009 to 2016 at competitor Tyson Foods, before he retired. The company reports Tyson saw “record growth” under Smith’s leadership.

Smith’s move to Foster Farms comes as chicken prices are rising nationwide. The Consumer Price Index reports the price of chicken rose 16.4% from April 2021 to April 2022. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports wholesale poultry prices are predicted to rise 15% to 18% throughout the year.

Foster Farms, which was founded in 1939, employs about 10,000 people in Washington, Oregon, California, Louisiana and Alabama.

Atlas Holdings owns and operates 25 companies, in fields like food manufacturing and building materials, and generates about $14.5 billion in annual revenue.

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