NYT: Perdue Buys Niman Ranch, as It Expands in Specialty Meat Business

Perdue Buys Niman Ranch, as It Expands in Specialty Meat Business


Perdue, the big, family-owned poultry company, ended weeks of speculation on Tuesday when it announced that it was the buyer of Niman Ranch, a specialty meats business.

Niman Ranch has been operated under the name Natural Food Holdings by LNK Partners, a private equity group, since 2011, after previous owners struggled to make a success of the business. Terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition is another step in Perdue’s transformation into one of the largest suppliers of premium meats. Restaurants and food companies are clamoring for such meats, as consumers increasingly demand less reliance on pharmaceuticals and better animal welfare.

“The strategy is to be the most trusted brand in premium proteins,” said Jim Perdue, the grandson of the company’s founder and its chief executive.

Perdue recently announced that it had succeeded in eliminating all antibiotics in raising more than half of its chickens, an achievement made easier by its acquisition of Coleman Natural Foods in 2011.

Coleman also put Perdue into the pork and beef business for the first time since Arthur Perdue, Jim Perdue’s grandfather, started the company in 1920. In adding Niman to its portfolio, Perdue will be one of the largest suppliers of what the Agriculture Department refers to as “niche” meats, one of the fastest-growing segments of the meat market.

Niman operates one of the largest pastured pig operations in the country, knitting together the output of hundreds of small farmers. Chipotle Mexican Grill, the popular restaurant chain, is among the biggest customers for that pork, while fine-dining restaurants prize Niman beef.

“The customers they have are in a lot of ways different than the customer we have, so it brings in an additional customer base to Perdue,” Mr. Perdue said. “They’re big in the food service and restaurant business while we’re doing a lot more in the retail market, so we think there’s a good fit there.”

Perdue is also mulling further steps in animal welfare, an area in which Niman can offer years of experience. “We absolutely can learn from them in that area,” Mr. Perdue said. “I think they can bring us a lot of new ideas, especially in the sow production side of the business.”

Natural Food Holdings also owns the Prairie Grove Farms brand and Sioux-Preme processing plants in Sioux City and Sioux Center, Iowa, which were included in the sale to Perdue. Mr. Perdue said these would expand Perdue’s capacity for slaughtering pigs and packaging pork.

A version of this article appears in print on September 9, 2015, on page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: Perdue Expands in Specialty Meat Business. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe