Chicken processing company opens in former Birds Eye plant

By Ashley M. Casey

Pakistan-based poultry processing company K&N’s Foods USA, LLC, has settled into the former Birds Eye Foods plant.

The company kicked off its new residence in Fulton with an inauguration ceremony Jan. 3. The plant, which Birds Eye vacated in December 2011, is located at 607 Phillips St.

The new plant is expected to add 183 jobs to the city over a course of three years. Although production will not begin for another two months or so, K&N’s  already has employed 44 people in Fulton, 35 percent of whom are former Birds Eye employees.

K&N’s will receive about $1 million in Excelsior tax credits from New York state in exchange for its promise to create jobs.

“It is much better as an elected official to come to an opening than a closing,” Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said at the inauguration ceremony. “It’s great to have K&N’s step into that vacancy.

Founded in 1964, K&N’s processes halal chicken products such as chicken nuggets, patties and kebabs. “Halal” is an Arabic term that refers to food prepared under  Muslim dietary standards, which prohibit pork and alcohol and require certain methods of slaughtering an animal for meat.

K&N’s Foods is a popular brand in the global halal trade — which generates $700 billion annually — but the Fulton plant will be the company’s first step in entering the North American market.

“There’s a huge Muslim population here (in the U.S.),” said Khalil Sattar, founder and chairman of K&N’s Foods. “There is literally no halal exports from the U.S.”

Sattar said the company has “explored” some market options and are close to hiring a salesperson.

After reviewing several possible sites, including one in Buffalo, K&N’s decided on Fulton because of its proximity to Canada and available facilities.

But it was the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) that solidified the decision.

It was a matter of “who would be more willing, ready and responsive” to K&N’s needs, Sattar said. He credited L. Michael Treadwell, CEO of IDA, as the “game-changer” in the decision.

“We were seriously looking in Buffalo, but things started changing when Mike entered the picture,” Sattar said.

Production at the Fulton plant is still about two months away, pending approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sattar said the USDA has already visited the plant once, and the packaging is already prepared for the first batch of products.

“If we succeed, it means economic development (for Fulton),” Khalil Sattar said.

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