Saturday, April 2, 2005


Frank Perdue, 84, Chicken Merchant, Dies
Published: April 2, 2005
The New York Times

Frank Perdue, a Maryland farm boy who became a household word, face and voice in folksy ads for his brand of fresh chickens, died on Thursday at his home in Salisbury, Md. He was 84.

He died after a brief illness, his company said, but it did not announce a cause.

In the 1970's, Mr. Perdue started the ad campaigns that would make him famous. He appeared in 200 different ads from 1971 to 1994.

It helped that he looked like a chicken. And Ross Perot. And Edward I. Koch, the mayor of New York. His bald head, droopy-eyed expression and prominent nose made people smile and feel comfortable with him. They tended to trust him more than they did slick-looking announcers.

It helped, too, that he had a nasal twang that contrasted with the unctuous tones of the usual pitchmen.

"It takes a tough man to raise a tender chicken," he said in his most familiar line. It made him believable - a hard-nosed yet likable American businessman who knew what he was talking about, who knew how to be tender and how to be tough.

"My chickens eat better than you do," he told his audience. "A chicken is what it eats. If you want to start eating as good as my chickens, take a tip from me - eat my chickens."

"Freeze my chickens? I'd rather eat beef!" was another line. He told his viewers that if they were not completely satisfied, they should write him directly and he would give them their money back. Do not write the government, he said: "The president of the United States? What does he know about chickens?"

Mr. Perdue's ads had an enormous effect on the company's business. According to a Perdue Farms survey taken in early 1972, brand recognition in New York, where most of the ads first appeared, rose to 51 percent in several months. The ads transformed Perdue into the first nationally recognized brand of chicken.

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