Former Cargill Exec Tapped to Lead Cooks Venture

Aug. 17, 2023
John Niemann has been appointed CEO of the vertically integrated processor and producer of slow-growth, pasture-raised chicken.

Decatur, Ark.-based Cooks Venture, a vertically integrated poultry company focused on producing slow-growth, pasture-raised chicken, has named industry veteran John Niemann as its new CEO.

Niemann previously held the position of president of Protein Ingredients & International at Cargill and had also been president of the company’s Turkey & Cooked Meats division. He spent more than 20 years at Cargill in various divisions. While serving as CEO of Cooks Venture, Niemann will remain an investor and board director for his most recent ventures, Prime Dirt Midwest and Asido Biologicals.

Cooks Venture says Niemann’s extensive experience and entrepreneurial background will help the company continue to grow in response to consumer demand.

In addition to the appointment of Niemann to CEO, Cooks Venture also recently hired Amanda Parker to be chief commercial officer. Parker brings more than 15 years of retail and CPG food industry experience to the company. She will continue to build Cooks Venture’s retail presence and expand the brand to new customers, channels and geographic regions.

Cooks Venture was founded in 2019, when Matthew Wadiak purchased defunct free-range chicken processor Crystal Lake Farms, which had been developed by Blake Evans, focused on growing a similar type of chicken as Cooks Venture now features. Wadiak was a co-founder of Blue Apron and had known Evans and his company for years prior. Cooks Venture is a Global Animal Partnership Step 4-certified company, Certified Humane and verified non-GMO. Cooks Venture’s breed, the Pioneer, is an approved slow-growing breed by the Better Chicken Commitment.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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