Farms supply eggs to Foster Farms’ seven hatcheries, where they are kept in an incubator for 21
days. In California, when the newborn chicks
hatch, they are taken to one of the company-owned ranches, many of which are within 35 miles
of the Livingston plant. In the Paci;c Northwest,
chickens are raised on company-owned ranches as
well as those owned by local families, and processed at a Foster Farms facility located in Kelso,
Washington. Each chicken spends about 45 days
on the ranch. During that time, the chickens have
constant access to the company’s own corn and
soybean meal feed.
At Taylor Ranch, a;er sheathing my feet in plastic, donning a safety suit and putting on rubber boots
(this is not for my welfare, by the way—it’s all about
bio-security and keeping the chickens healthy), I am
allowed into one of the 20 chicken houses on-site.
;ere are 20,000 chickens in this one house.
;e building is so big I cannot see the other end.
I expect to be overwhelmed by smell. I am not. I
expect to see bedraggled birds. I do not. ;e air
temperature is pleasant and there is plenty of light
(both are maintained by a high-tech computerized
monitoring system). ;e chickens are milling about,
clean, clucking and alert.
“;ey are pampered,” says Tim Hoover, who
grew up on Taylor Ranch when his father ran it.
“Good chicken is good business,” adds Danny Cupit,
Tim’s supervisor, whose family has worked with
Foster Farms for three generations.
Debeaking, a cruel practice at some farms, does
not take place here. “Debeaking takes place because
the chickens are ;ghting each other,” says Cupit.
“;ey ;ght each other because they are in miserable
conditions. Here, we make the conditions perfect.
;ese birds are happy.”
Even at the processing plant, the emphasis is on
being humane: Foster Farms has developed a pro-
cess that keeps the birds calm and serene right up to
“We control all aspects of the process,” says
Foster. “It is the best way to ensure that things are
24 ;e Costco Connection JULY 2010
Employees, ecology, environment, etc.
Speaking of the processing plant, the employees
don’t need anything like debeaking either. I’ve worked
in assembly-line jobs. I remember what it was like, and
it wasn’t like this. Walking the lines at the Livingston
plant, I see intent, smiling, interactive people.
“;e employee turnover here is 10 percent,” says
Richie King, who oversees all plant operations. “It’s
the lowest in the industry.”
In this Rube Goldberg–like maze of machinery
and conveyor belts, King points out where they have
addressed “pinch points,” places where employees’
safety was an issue.
“We call it ‘Fosterizing,’ ” King says of the ways
the company has developed new safety equipment
and methods. “We have done so well with our safety
records that we are running out of room for awards,”
he laughs, adding that more than a year has gone by
without an injury at the plant.
Foster Farms employs about 12,000 people,
many of whom have been with the company for
more than 30 years. Families have worked with the
company over multiple generations. ;e company’s
pay is standard, but the bene;ts are anything but. An
active educational partner, the company provides
local university scholarships as well as national
scholarship opportunities to employees’ children.
Name: Ron Foster
Company: Foster Farms
1000 Davis St.
“A lot of employees have been able to send their
kids to Harvard and Yale,” says King.
Livingston, CA 95334
Phone: (209) 394-7901
While Foster Farms prides itself on the ways it
runs its business, the company is just as concerned
that others, including competitors, are doing it right
Items at Costco:
“If one company does something wrong, it has
an impact on all of us in the industry,” says Foster.
“Whether we’re talking about the environment,
food safety, employee safety or practices such as
untruthful labeling, we’re just as concerned as the
consumer that everyone in the industry is operating
their business the right way.”
Nationally: Fresh chicken
breast strips, chicken bakes,
meatball bakes, sliced turkey,
whole turkey. Regionally (
varies): Fresh chicken, rotisserie
chicken, wings, corn dogs.
Comments about Costco:
;e irony, he says, is “if you do things right, it’s
“The relationship between
Food for thought
I le; Foster Farms with a lot to think about.
Nothing I found is going to mollify some people. A
vegetarian, or someone who thinks all food should
come from the backyard, will disapprove.
Costco and Foster Farms
goes back more than 20
years. Costco exemplifies
the best attributes we would
want to see in any partner.
We share the same concerns
about quality, honesty, integ-
rity and value.”—Ron Foster
But the fact is, most people don’t have the space
or the time to raise their own food. If you think about
how much chicken Americans eat (members purchased close to 200 million pounds from Costco just
in the past 12 months), it dawns on you how much
chicken needs to be produced to meet demand.
A;er visiting the operations, meeting with the
people responsible for making all this work and see-
ing how much pride they take in what they do, I
“We started out as a small
family farm and grew because
we were giving consumers
what they want-
ed. We remain
a family farm
at heart and in
practice,” says Foster.
“As the company
has grown, a lot
has changed and
very little has
changed. We grow
and process more
birds, but still hatch
and raise them with the
same care that my grandparents and those that worked
with them used over 70 years ago.
Ron Foster once again rebuffs the
Foster Imposters, stars of the
company’s clever TV commercials,
in their attempt to qualify as
Foster Farms chickens.
“We are living the values my
grandparents set in place.” C