Robotics are used at MPS Egg Farms in North Manchester. (company provided photo)
Automation to place eggs in cartons at North Manchester-based MPS Egg Farms (company provided photo)
Aerial view of an egg production facility in North Manchester. (photo provided: MPS Egg Farms)
MPS Egg Farms CEO Bob Krouse is flanked by his sons. (photo provided)
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, where social distancing is strongly encouraged and air travel is nearly nonexistent, a Wabash County egg operation has closed on a deal to purchase an egg farming operation 1,000 miles away in southeast Texas.
MPS Egg Farms, which is headquartered in North Manchester, has purchased Feather Crest Farms Inc., a 70-year-old egg farm based in Center, Texas.
Financial details of the transaction between the two private companies were not disclosed.
“We knew of Feather Crest Farms by reputation – they are solid and well-respected within the industry,” said Sam Krouse, vice president of business development for MPS Egg Farms.
MPS currently distributes table eggs as far east as Virginia and as far west as Texas. The company said this acquisition allows it to enhance its geographic footprint.
“We know we need to grow,” says Dan Krouse, vice president of business operations. “Texas allows us to serve existing customers and also go after some new customers we could not reach before competitively.”
MPS Egg Farms will now add approximately 1 million hens to its operation for a total of 11 million egg-laying hens. MPS said it is keeping the existing staff of 96 workers in Texas, which brings staffing to 635 people between its Indiana, Illinois and Texas operations.
“It was a little surprising,” admitted Krouse, who says his dad, Chief Executive Officer Bob Krouse said Feather Crest was looking for a buyer. “But we started looking into it, thinking about it, and it was a good match.”
MPS said the deal started to develop in 2019, before the economic calamity of the COVID-19 pandemic started to unfold. After months of discussions, Dan Krouse said it was time to close the deal but federal emergency declarations and stay at home orders created challenges.
“I worked for a month to put together our closing week plan,” said Dan Krouse. He said the initial plan included taking 12 staff members to Texas to handle regulatory affairs, safety policies and operational policies.
The goal was to complete the transition in a week.
“Then as COVID started shutting things down, we reduced it to just a couple of us to do the essential things,” remembered Krouse. “Eventually, we realized none of us could go.”
And the entire deal would be completed electronically.
“In the very literal sense, we couldn’t shake hands this time,” said Sam Krouse.
In this digital age, signing contracts and other legal steps are typically handled remotely between attorneys and their staff.
“But it’s still frustrating we can’t go there and have that face to face (meeting) with our new management team,” said Dan Krouse.
The Krouse brothers said they are thankful the existing Texas management team is there as the two companies seem to share values on customer service.
“I think that cultural blend is one thing we’re looking forward to when we get together in person,” said Sam Krouse. “Feather Crest had a great culture before, but it’s their own culture. MPS has its own culture, so it’ll be great to bring our people together and really share more about us as people.”
Dan Krouse said the new farms will retain their local name and there are no immediate expansion plans for the Texas operation, calling it “business as usual.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: MPS says egg sales shot up 100% in the early days of the pandemic as restaurants shut down forcing more people to cook at home. Click here to read that story.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, MPS Egg Farms Vice President of Business Operations Dan Krouse says COVID-19 created unique challenges to seal the deal.