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Former Tyson Chairman Don Tyson Honored With American Meat Institute Industry Advancement Award

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicago, Ill.  – The late Don Tyson, former chairman of Tyson Foods, Inc., today was honored today with the American Meat Institute’s (AMI) highest award, the Industry Advancement Award.

Tyson died in January 2011 at the age of 80 after a battle with cancer, but according to AMI Chairman Dennis Vignieri, president of Kenosha Beef International, he left an indelible mark on the meat industry.

In presenting the award, Vignieri said that Tyson was among the individuals whose drive and innovation helped to transform the U.S. meat and poultry industry from its former commodity mindset to its laser focus on the consumer and the importance of meeting their ever-changing needs and expectations.

While Tyson was born during the depression and entered the workforce during World War II, he embodied a persistent, positive spirit that was characterized by his personal mantra, “I refuse to have a bad day.” 

He entered the family chicken business at the age of 14 as a chicken catcher.  Over time, he worked his way up the corporate ranks, becoming the company’s leader in 1967 after his father’s tragic death.  

Tyson had an intuition about new products, like the Rock Cornish hen, which he persuaded his father to introduce in the early 1960s.  He then led the company’s expansion into other areas like tortillas, bakery, pork, beef and seafood.  Together with his son, current Tyson Chairman John Tyson, he managed the acquisition of the meat company IBP and built a new model of diversification in the animal protein sector.

“He truly won the hearts of America’s children when his company introduced the chicken nugget – now a favorite food for children – and a few adults, too!” Vignieri said. 

Vignieri said he was never content to think he had the consumer all figured out and encouraged the construction of Tyson’s state of the art research and development center that has continued to monitor trends and meet them face-to-face with new and satisfying products. 

“In all of his efforts, he has been a strong competitor in the marketplace and challenged the rest of us to strive harder and be better,” Vignieri added.

“He also understood clearly this industry’s most valuable asset:  its people. He was as comfortable interacting with team members on the processing lines, as he was with those in the board room because he never forgot his roots,” Vignieri said.  “Throughout his entire career, Don was a great leader and a strong competitor, and he elevated our industry by his presence.”



AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Together, AMI’s members produce 95 percent of the beef, pork, lamb and veal products and 70 percent of the turkey products in the United States. The Institute provides legislative, regulatory, public relations, technical, scientific and educational services to the meat and poultry packing and processing industry.

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