Huge layoffs loom at ‘struggling’ Fresno poultry processor

Zacky Farms, one of the San Joaquin Valley’s leading poultry companies, is facing layoffs, a company official said Tuesday.

The Fresno-based turkey producer emailed a letter to workers, stating, in part:

“After four generations and an enormous effort to keep the company in sync with the fast pace of changing times, we no longer are able to keep up with business as usual. We have put our best foot forward but as we struggled in the current state of the industry conditions, it has been impossible for us to continue profitably.”

The email was signed Lillian Zacky, whose father-in-law Sam founded the company in 1928 in Los Angeles.

The company official, who asked not to identified, would not disclose how many workers would be affected other than to say that it would be “less than 1,000” workers.

That’s around how many workers the company employs, putting its future into question.

The official said the layoffs would be done in phases.

A representative from the Workforce Investment board visited the southeast Fresno plant, 2020 S. East Ave., on Tuesday to make workers aware of job-related services available to them.

The Zacky Farms plant in west Fresno. Richard Darby Fresno Bee Staff Photo

At one time, the company employed at least 1,500 people and was one of the nation’s largest turkey farmers and processors. Last year, the company processed 82.96 million pounds of turkeys, according to industry statistics.

But the turkey grower and processor has struggled over the years.

In 2001 it sold off its chicken business to rival Foster Farms, and in 2012 it filed for bankruptcy protection with debt estimated at $50 million to $100 million.

Record high feed prices were taking a toll on the company. At the time, Zacky was spending about $1.8 million weekly to feed 2.5 million turkeys and chickens. .

A year later, the Robert and Lillian Zacky Trust successfully won a bid to buy the company for $38.8 million.

The sale included turkey processing plants in Fresno and Stockton, corporate offices in Fresno, two Fresno warehouses, a turkey hatchery in Kerman and 16 company-owned ranches in Fresno and Kings counties.

In June, the company completed a $25 million secured loan from a Connecticut-based finance company, Great Rock Capital, to help pay off debts and to fuel future growth.