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Foster Farms sold to Connecticut-based conglomerate
foster farms
Atlas Holdings acquired Foster Farms’ processing facilities in California, Washington, Louisiana, Oregon and Alabama, along with the company’s 10,000 employees (Journal file photo).

The local poultry powerhouse Foster Farms is under new ownership, as the sale of the family-owned business was announced earlier this week to Atlas Holdings, a global conglomerate based out of Greenwich, Connecticut.

Atlas and its affiliates own and operate 25 companies across more than 300 facilities worldwide. Atlas operates in sectors such as aluminum processing, automotive, building materials, capital equipment, construction services, food manufacturing and distribution, packaging, paper, power generation, printing, pulp, supply chain management and wood products.

Atlas acquired Foster Farms’ processing facilities in California, Washington, Louisiana, Oregon and Alabama, along with the company’s 10,000 employees.

"We are thrilled to welcome Foster Farms to the Atlas Family of great global businesses," said Atlas Partners Sam Astor, Ed Fletcher, and Mike Sher in a released statement. "We have a long history of partnering with proud family-owned companies to honor their past while driving additional operational, environmental, and financial success for the next generation.”

Atlas also announced that longtime poultry industry leader Donnie Smith, former Chief Executive Officer of Tyson Foods, has been named Foster Farms' new Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. Smith spent 36 years with Tyson in roles spanning all business functions. He was named CEO in 2009, a role he held until his retirement in 2016. Under his leadership, Tyson saw record growth, entered new markets and expanded its product offerings, staying true to Tyson's heritage while charting its path forward as one of the world's largest food companies.

"I love the poultry industry and am proud that Atlas has asked me to become the CEO of Foster Farms," said Smith. "I've long been an admirer of the Foster Family and the business they've built over the past eight decades. In this new era, we will maintain and further that legacy, rooted in animal welfare, superior product quality, customer service and community engagement."

Founded in 1939 on a small farm, Foster Farms has grown to be a leading brand of fresh chicken in the West with products available nationwide. The company has also been known for its generous donations to local food banks. Every year before Thanksgiving, Foster Farms has donated thousands of pounds of turkey to West Coast food banks, including the Second Harvest Food Bank of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. In 2020, the company stepped up to donate an additional 420,000 servings of poultry to California and Washington state food banks to assist families impacted economically by COVID-19.

In recent years, however, the company has seen its fair share of trouble.

In May, Foster Farms and its contracted staffing agencies were ordered to pay $3.8 million in fines after the California’s Labor Commissioner cited the company for not informing 3,476 workers of the availability for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

In 2020, a judge in Merced County granted a temporary restraining order sought by the United Farm Workers of America union against Foster Farms, where a virus outbreak at its Livingston facility killed nine people and sickened hundreds earlier this year. The plant was temporarily ordered to close.

Also in 2020, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued Foster Farms for wasting water while slaughtering chickens through “electric immobilization.”