For the past two weeks, vandals have killed more than 300,000 chickens in three incidents, said Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett. He estimated the total loss at $1.7 million.
All the farms involved are contracted to raise chickens for Pilgrim Pride Corp.
Sheriff Garrett told local media that suspects knows exactly how to disarm alarm system that warns operations by cellphone. In addition, the suspects also know the proper way to control the heating, cooling and ventilation systems in order to kill the birds.
Furthermore, he added the pattern indicates the suspects are apparently targeting farms linked to Pilgrim Pride in act of aggression towards the company.
"Pilgrim's was recently made aware of acts of vandalism in Clarendon County that have resulted in the loss of chickens raised by some of our contract grower partners. These unfortunate, yet apparently deliberate acts show a blatant disregard for the welfare of the chickens and the livelihood of the family farmers involved. We are fully cooperating with local authorities. Given the ongoing investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” said Pilgrim Pride in response to the incidents.
The affected family farms are under contract to grow chickens on behalf of Pilgrim's, delivering the birds to the Company's prepared foods facility in Sumter, S.C. Pilgrim's Sumter is a critical part of the economic viability of the local community, employing more than 1,600 team members, partnering with more than 90 local growers and paying more than $24 million in annual grower payments. Pilgrim's Sumter provides high quality chicken products to retail and food service customers throughout the U.S. and around the world. Pilgrim's will deliver new flocks of birds to affected growers in the coming days to help compensate losses.
"I want to personally thank Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett and his team, the USDA and the South Carolina state police for their efforts to investigate this matter and hold those responsible accountable," said Mickey Baugher, Complex Manager, Pilgrim's Sumter. "We have no idea why our grower partners may have been targeted. We will continue to assist authorities in any way possible to resolve this unfortunate situation."
The reward of up to $50,000 is being offered by Pilgrim's Pride Corporation. Anyone with information about these incidents or as to the identity or whereabouts of the perpetrators is urged to contact the Clarendon County Sheriff's Office at (803) 435 - 4414.
"The family farmer is the backbone of rural America, her values and her economy," said Bill Lovette, president and CEO of Pilgrim's Pride. "The American family farmer makes safe, nutritious and affordable meals possible for millions of American families every day. An attack against the family farm should not and cannot be tolerated and we hope this reward will help bring the perpetrators to swift justice."