TUCKER, Ga. — After approximately 15 years at the helm of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, John Starkey has announced his upcoming retirement. He has been USPOULTRY president since 2007, succeeding the retirement of Don Dalton.
“While such a decision is never easy, the time has come for me to step aside,” Starkey said. “USPOULTRY is a great organization, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to contribute throughout my career and for the last 23 years as a member of the staff.”
Starkey initially joined the association in 2000 in what was the newly established role of vice president, environmental programs. He had also been active with the group throughout his career as a seminar speaker and as a member of committees.
Looking back at his poultry industry career, after receiving his undergraduate degree from Purdue University in chemical engineering, and his master’s degree from Georgia Tech in sanitary engineering; Starkey began with Gold Kist in 1982 as an environmental engineer. He later joined Hudson Foods in Arkansas, as its director of environmental affairs. When Hudson was sold to Tyson Foods, he joined the engineering firm Vaughn, Coltrane & Associates as a principal.
Starkey has been president of USPOULTRY during some momentous, and also some very challenging times. But he notes that the strides that are made to benefit the future, and the efforts of everyone working together have been some of his tenure’s most rewarding experiences.
Of note is the association’s capital campaign a few years back that raised approximately $11 million for the USPOULTRY Foundation.
“That money goes to research and student recruiting,” Starkey said. “That’s really an investment in our future.”
He added that through this campaign, it was incredibly rewarding to him, and to the industry as a whole, seeing the generosity and kindness of the people and companies, and their belief in what is being achieved in terms of recruiting and important research.
He also notes the excitement of being able to take what was once the International Poultry Expo and joining with the North American Meat Institute and the American Feed Industry Association; and forming what is now the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE).
“We got so much more out of the combination of the three trade organizations working together than any of us could have ever achieved, and that’s so good for the industry,” Starkey said. “If there ever is the case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, this is it.”
This is another investment in the future that the industry is making, he added.
“The net revenue that’s generated by the show is funneled right back into the industry,” Starkey said. “Research or student recruiting or education, or regulatory programs … and NAMI and AFIA are doing the same with the industries that they serve.”
“It’s a self-sustaining model,” he added. “Hopefully what happens is we take revenue from the show, and we reinvest it in the industry, and that makes the industry better, and that means that next year everybody can come back and buy more goods and services that is supplied by this self-sustaining model.
“The industry owns this trade show. USPOULTRY doesn’t own it. NAMI doesn’t own it. AFIA doesn’t own it. The industry owns it and benefits from it. And the revenue that it generates, it invests that to make itself better.”
In looking for his successor, the initial stages of Starkey’s replacement will now begin, and a search committee was formed at USPOULTRY’s January board meeting. A successor will probably not be named until sometime later in the year, potentially the second or third quarter after the association has honed-in on a selection. Until that time, he will remain with the association to assist in an advisory role to make sure there is a smooth transition.
“John has provided solid and visionary leadership to USPOULTRY for the past 15 years,” Mike Levengood, Perdue Farms, and 2022 USPOULTRY chairman, said. “He has provided consistent guidance through some very challenging times, particularly the Foundation campaign and COVID-19 pandemic. And USPOULTRY and IPPE have grown significantly. Recognizing that level of leadership, John was also awarded the association’s highest annual award, the Workhorse of the Year, in 2015.”
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