Sanderson Farms just celebrated its 70th year with record sales of $3.3 billion. Sanderson, the third-largest poultry producer in the United States, is headquartered in Laurel, Mississippi and has operations in five states across the South, employing 15,000 people. It exports chicken to over 40 countries.

“Laurel is our home. It’s where the company started, that seed and feed store on Ash and Maple Street,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joe Sanderson Jr., the third generation of his family to lead the company. “The founders, my grandfather and my father and my uncle, laid a very strong foundation,” Sanderson said in an interview.

Sanderson Farms went public in 1987. Its stock trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol SAFM. It has a market capitalization of almost $3 billion, but Sanderson said the company holds on to the core values of its founders who started it all with that Jones County farm supply store.

“We operate by those same principles today,” Sanderson said. “Honesty, integrity, and hard work. Conservative in the way we manage the business financially. Serving our shareholders. Serving the communities where we operate.”

“The international market is very important to us,” Joe Sanderson said. “Twenty percent of our production is exported out of the United States. In particular, Mexico is a very important market for us.”

Looking to the future, Sanderson said he sees new opportunity. “As the middle class evolves and develops all over the world, in the Pacific and Africa, they’re going to need protein, and poultry will be part of that. And for Sanderson Farms we want to be part of that too. So we think the future is bright.”

Sanderson Farms sold over 4 billion pounds of chicken in 2017.