SILER CITY — Mountaire Farms has been processing chicken for distribution since 1964, but company officials say its first foray into selling directly to the public — which it did here Sunday in …
Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.
SILER CITY — Mountaire Farms has been processing chicken for distribution since 1964, but company officials say its first foray into selling directly to the public — which it did here Sunday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — was a “learning experience.”
Traffic in Siler City snarled to a near stop as people tried to purchase chicken from the Mountaire employee parking lot off East Third Street. The company operates as a wholesale poultry producer, selling its chicken in bulk to other food companies and grocery stores to sell. But on Sunday, it offered its product directly to the public — selling 10-pound bags of chicken for $10 and 40-pound boxes for $40, with a limit of five cases or 200 pounds.
“We don’t normally sell chicken like this so it was a learning experience for everyone,” Mark Reif, Mountaire’s North Carolina community relations manager said.
Reif said the demand was much higher than anticipated. An hour before the noon start time Sunday, traffic had grown around the plant, backing up on Eleventh Street (U.S. Hwy. 64) in both directions and on Raleigh and East Third Streets into downtown Siler City. With lines of cars growing, the company decided to start early to try to ease traffic. As the sale continued, though, more and more drivers found themselves caught in the gridlock.
“It was impossible to anticipate the amount of interest for this truckload sale,” Reif said. “We alerted the police in advance and asked for their help with traffic flow. We appreciate the Siler City Police Department and their cooperation to allow us to help the community purchase chicken.”
Cars entered the Mountaire employee parking lot through the entrance on Raleigh Street. Cones and workers, with the assistance of Siler City Police Department staff, led the incoming vehicles through a labyrinth in the parking lot, fitting as many cars as possible into each of the lot rows. At the end of each row, workers allowed cars, one row of cars at a time, to merge into two lanes to where drivers made their chicken order. Patience wore thin with some drivers with one shouting, “This line has not moved at all!”
Workers and volunteers greeted people in their cars, with one writing the Post-it note “ticket,” while another would collect payment. Credit cards were accepted, but Mountaire staff were only collecting exact cash amounts to avoid making change to protect drivers from contamination from cash, according to Reif.
The two rows of cars then continued around the lot to the trucks where their chicken was loaded into the cars by workers. “Two cases,” one would shout while another would confirm “two cases” while pulling the 40-pound boxes from the truck. The vehicles were then directed to an exit that allowed only right turns, pushing all traffic into downtown.
“We organized the event so people never had to get out of their vehicles,” Reif said. “Our teams volunteered their time and worked quickly and carefully to minimize exposure to the community.”
Shortly after 1 p.m., the chicken supply in the trucks had run dry — having sold the full allotment of 80,000 pounds of chicken in just a couple of hours. Mountaire did not anticipate the “high demand,” according to Reif. He noted Mountaire originally planned to only have one truck of chicken available at the sale, but brought the second out in “just in case.”
“We want to thank all those customers we were able to help [Sunday],” Reif said. “We are grateful for every one of our employees who volunteered their time on their day off to help fill a need in the community.”
Mountaire is working to find ways to do additional truckload sales in the coming days based on the lessons learned from the weekend, Reif said. The company will host truckload sales from 9 a.m. until noon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Saint Julia Catholic Church, located at 210 Harold Hart Rd., off U.S. Hwy.64, in Siler City. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office will manage the traffic along U.S. Hwy. 64 while the Siler City Police Department will handle traffic on the Church property, according to Reif.
“This will keep the trucks and the traffic outside of downtown Siler City,” Reif said.
Reif said Mountaire wants to continue to help families in the community and distribute food.
Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.