Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation has announced the immediate appointment of Jayson Penn as CEO.

Penn was previously president of Pilgrim’s USA. He will succeed Bill Lovette, who has retired from the position of president and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride. Lovette, who served in that position for eight years, will remain available to provide strategic advisory services to the company through July 2020.

Penn joined Pilgrim’s in March of 2011 as senior vice president of the Commercial Business Group, bringing to Pilgrim’s more than 23 years of experience in the poultry industry, and has served as executive vice president of Pilgrim’s USA. Penn began his career in his family’s poultry operations and has held management positions at several leading poultry companies.

“I am humbled that the Board has given me the opportunity to serve as Pilgrim’s CEO,” says Penn. “Pilgrim’s has been on a remarkable journey of growth, building a strong culture of empowerment and providing our customers and consumers with high quality, innovative solutions that allow them to thrive. We are a global team of more than 52,000, unified in mission and purpose, and I am excited to help guide our team in the next steps of our journey.”

“Jayson Penn has enjoyed a distinguished career in the poultry industry and has played an integral role in the success of Pilgrim’s over the last eight years,” says Gilberto Tomazoni, chairman of the Board of Directors. “Since joining the company in March 2011, Jayson has exemplified the leadership qualities, passion to succeed and business acumen that make him the ideal candidate to assume this role. The Board’s decision is further validation of the Pilgrim’s strategy, implemented in 2012, to create a unique, diversified portfolio across multiple geographies, with a focus on key customers and operational excellence, to generate more consistent and higher margins. Jayson has been at the forefront of this strategy and we are confident in his ability to continue to create shareholder value.”

Penn has also served on the board of directors and the executive committee of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and currently serves on the board and executive committee of the National Chicken Council and the board of directors of The World Poultry Foundation. He is a graduate of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., and the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Speaking of Lovette’s service, Tomazoni says, “The Board is extremely grateful for Bill’s leadership, vision, dedication and commitment. His legacy at Pilgrim’s will endure through the strong management team and unique business platform he developed, which will position the company for continued growth and success.”

Lovette was appointed president and CEO by the Board of Directors in January 2011 and, during his tenure, led a period of unprecedented value creation for the company and its shareholders, growing the business from $6.9 billion to $10.9 billion in annual net revenue. Over the last eight years, Lovette helped establish Pilgrim’s as a leading global food company by building a diversified portfolio of brands and on-trend products, extending the company’s footprint to the UK and Europe, significantly expanding its presence in Mexico, investing in operations and increasing margins and bottom-line profitability by partnering with key customers to create shared success.