Editor's Plate: JBS Becomes a Good American Citizen

Nov. 17, 2023
After some bumps and missteps early on, the Brazilian and American companies truly belong to the North American and global food processing communities.

We have three other stories on JBS as our Processor of the Year; see notes at the end of this story.

I was in this same job back in 2007 when Brazilian firm JBS S.A. bought the venerable, 152-year-old meat processor Swift & Co. It wasn't the first acquisition of an American company by a foreign one, but it was one of the biggest at the time.

There was plenty of concern about foreigners taking over a key U.S. food provider, one with market share, name recognition and a long history. (Remember all the rancor when a Chinese firm bought Smithfield?) The Brazilians were considered opportunists, and many questioned their ability to manage a business in the States, especially since it suddenly quintupled the parent firm's size.

The concerns only grew when, in the following few years, JBS also bought Smithfield’s beef operations, Cargill’s pork operations and the huge but bankrupt poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride. It was a difficult time for animal protein companies in the U.S. These Brazilians looked like tubaraos (I think that's Portuguese for sharks).

Early on, there were a few missteps, maybe growing pains, by the Brazilian parent firm and the American company that emerged from all that: JBS USA. There were investigations back in Brazil, an attempted U.S. initial public offering of stock torpedoed by outside accountants. Just last month, two members of the founding Batista family were found not guilty of insider trading.

We're aware of all that. But in recent years, what has emerged is not just the second biggest animal protein processor in the U.S. but a company that has gone to great lengths to be a good corporate citizen. An American citizen.

We're happy to name JBS USA our 19th Processor of the Year. In three stories within this issue, we take a look at the history and the business, the company's efforts toward value-added products and the parent firm's commitment to be net-zero in greenhouse gas emissions in all its operations by 2040.

As we dug into our research, we found a company that pays community college tuition for all its employees and their children. That has built educational, recreational and social service infrastructures in the communities it operates in, including two affordable housing projects in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. And has managed to keep 150,000 Americans and Canadians employed while other North American animal protein suppliers currently are closing facilities and laying people off.

The American company has had a transformational effect on its Brazilian parent – and not just because it accounts for more than half of global sales. JBS S.A. would not be where it is today without that American influence ... and American meat processing would not be where it is today without JBS.

Our Past Processors of the Year

2022: Hershey
2021: Mondelez
2020: Perdue Farms
2019: Hearthside Food Solutions
2018: Smithfield Foods
2017: Pinnacle Foods
2016: General Mills
2015: PepsiCo
2014: WhiteWave Foods
2013: ConAgra
2012: Chobani Inc.
2011: H.J. Heinz Co.
2010: TreeHouse Foods
2009: Nestle USA
2008: Hormel Foods
2007: Mars Snackfood
2006: Kellogg Co.
2005: Tyson Foods

SEE ALSO:

2023 Processor of the Year: JBS USA

A Billion-Dollar Pledge to Become Net Zero

Value-Added Evolution Brings Opportunity

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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