Allen Harim (AH) evolved from a line of family-owned poultry businesses serving the eastern United States. The tradition began in 1919 as Allen Hatcheries, growing with demand for poultry for more than 50 years. In the 1970s, the business became Allen Family Foods.
Due to increased cost of commodity grains and oversupply of proteins in the late 2000s, the business fell on hard times. In 2011, the company filed bankruptcy and liquidated assets and facilities. The Harim Corporation, based in South Korea, purchased AH and swiftly went to work, rebuilding the company and its brands.
Steven Evans, CEO since late 2013, has a background working in sales, marketing and logistics in the poultry industry; he worked for Perdue for 28 years before joining the AH team. He has enjoyed working with, and learning from, the parent company in South Korea, which is the small country’s largest branded poultry company.
On the other side of the world, The Harim Corporation raises and sells chickens, ducks and pigs, as well as feed for the company’s livestock and for the market. The business also operates a home shopping network. AH is The Harim Corporation’s first entry into the U.S. market.
AH is a vertically integrated operation, controlling the process from the egg to the dinner plate. The company operates a breeding facility in North Carolina, where the eggs come from, as well as a feed mill on-site to support infrastructure.
Two hatcheries in Delaware make sure healthy chicks hatch, before sending them off to more than 180 producers who raise the chickens until they are ready to go to market. Among those producers are 20 farms that AH owns. The company processes these birds in-house with two facilities before packing and selling to companies that further process value-added products, grocery chains and restaurants.
Vertical integration offers cost efficiency and quality control, although by controlling the entire process, AH deals with all of the challenges along the way. Input costs have presented the largest challenge so far, with broad fluctuation of the commodities market.
“More than half the cost of a chicken is paying for what a chicken eats,” Evans explains. “Corn, soybean meal and wheat have been at extremes price-wise, which has been very difficult for our industry.”
On top of that, Evans has been hard at work rebuilding the company. AH is stable, but the business has big plans to continue upward growth. “My philosophy over the last several months has been to stabilize, embrace and evolve,” Evans says. “We developed an operating plan last year, building strong and consistent earnings while establishing a revised mission, vision and values system.”
Now the business is working on a more long-range strategic plan. “We are extremely efficient and chicken friendly,” Evans continues. “I want to make sure we are doing the right thing. Our goal is to improve quality of life and share happiness; that’s our mission statement. That applies not only to our employees and the communities we serve, but we also strive to do the right thing by our chickens. That means a good diet, efficient and environmentally friendly housing, and making sure we can put claims on our product that appeal to consumers and maintain a strong level of transparency.”
Evans’ goal is to eventually build a company that provides completely antibiotic-free chickens. As of 2014, a majority of these birds are, in fact, antibiotic-free.
“Very few birds in reality actually get these antibiotics,” he explains. “Most of the industry uses antibiotics the way a doctor does when people are sick. If birds are sick, we will treat with an antibiotic. That is part of doing the right thing for our birds, to help them stay healthy independently and as a flock. To combat the need to use these antibiotics, we focus on our grow-out cycle, we feed them well with corn and soybean meal, we give them filtered water and provide them with environmentally friendly housing. We want to keep them healthy without antibiotics.”
The company has not expanded its product line significantly, although the team continues to work toward a 100 percent antibiotic-free offering. “We are now taking products in our existing line and converting them to antibiotic-free products,” Evans notes. “I believe 10 percent of revenue should be from new products every year, so our goal is to increase the amount of antibiotic-free chickens along those guidelines.”
In 2015, Evans plans to continue the constant evolution and improvement of the company. In order to keep his team on track, management has established a balanced scorecard program. This system of performance measurement includes five metrics: employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, quality, sustainability metrics and financial metrics.
“If you take care of the first four, the last one will take care of itself,” Evans notes.
Over the coming years, Allen Harim will stick to those values, providing high-quality poultry through innovation and integrity.