Trying Their Wings Perdue Farms Brings the Chickens Home to Roost at Dierbergs Markets

Article excerpt

Jim Perdue says he cooked chicken for his wife just once.

Perdue says he prepared a tried-and-true Perdue family recipe for his wife and friends before they were married. "She was impressed," said the son of Frank Perdue, known by the advertising slogan: "It takes a tough man to make a tender bird."

But if Jim Perdue's wife expected him to take a turn in the kitchen after the wedding, she was sorely disappointed. He says he hasn't cooked since. Perdue also shattered the impression that his father is a good cook - a myth reinforced by Frank Perdue's picture on several cookbooks put out by Perdue Farms Inc., the Salisbury, Md., company that is the nation's second-largest poultry producer. "You'd be lucky to get a bowl of cereal" if the elder Perdue were cooking, said his son. Jim Perdue took over as chairman of Perdue Farms in 1991, after earning a doctorate in fisheries and then returning to work in 1983 for the company his grandfather founded in 1920. He has expanded Perdue by buying other chicken producers and building new production and processing complexes. Perdue's newest complex is in Cromwell, Ky., about 250 miles southeast of St. Louis. When the Cromwell plant opened in February, St. Louis became a target market for Perdue chicken. The company will deliver only to cities within 500 miles of its plants because it wants the chicken to arrive the day after slaughter. Perdue was in St. Louis recently to check on the rollout of his product at Dierbergs. The younger Perdue wants to win St. Louis over to his broad-breasted yellow-hued birds. Perdue says its birds are all natural because they contain no artificial ingredients and no hormones. For consumers used to pale pinkish-white chickens, the yellow color of Perdue birds may take some getting used to. But Perdue says chickens are naturally yellow. His company enhances the color by mixing marigold petals into chicken feed whose main ingredient is corn. …