ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Colorado is already home to one of the country's largest meat-packing plants — JBS USA. But, the state is quickly becoming one of the nation's top chicken producers, thanks to the quality set forth by an Englewood business.
You're in good company with Red Bird Farms.
You may recognize the Red Bird logo at your grocery store immediately, and that's just how company president Mareo Torito wants it.
"Today we are No. 1 in Colorado," Torito said. "Maybe in Arizona, with a big margin."
He said Red Bird Farms holds a 40% share in Colorado's chicken market, at grocery stores like King Soopers, City Market, and Safeway, in large part thanks to brand building.
"If we can repeat high-quality, tasty, delicious chicken, right next to the logo, I thought, 'Some day, we'll blossom,'" Torito said.
Red Bird Farms has doubled its production the last three years, going from $65 million in sales in 2020, to a projected $130 million in 2022. Torito considers the COVID-19 pandemic a turning point for the company.
He raised the minimum wage for employees by 25% and started knocking out walls to increase the workspace. He also emphasized quality over everything.
"We try to be on top of today's science," Torito said. "So, the equipment, many of the machines you see, are top notch."
It's a slower production process than larger companies. Torito lets the chicken rest and tenderize first for 12 hours, as opposed to freezing and thawing quickly. But the end result is cleaner-cut chicken and packaging.
And, Torito said USDA regulators are happy because surfaces aren't contaminated. Red Bird Farms only uses vegetarian-fed, cage-free chickens, and never adds antibiotics.
"If I'm successful (in letting) you try our chicken one time, you become my customer," Torito said. "It is so fresh, and also processed so clean. And, after you cook it and put it in your mouth, you get convinced very quickly."
Torito came over from Tokyo, Japan in the 1970s to what he considered a cow town at the time, with only a few hundred dollars to his name. But he made a home here surrounding himself with good people to feel like the richest man on Earth.
"I came here 46 years ago, and it was always Denver," Torito said. "I really, really like this town. And I'm so happy."