An executive with a poultry vaccine company said Monday that 90 percent of the chickens consumed in the U.S. are inoculated with a vaccine made in Gainesville.
Stan Appleton of Merial Select was the featured speaker at the Rotary Club of Gainesville, which met at the Northeast Georgia History Center, where a new exhibit on poultry opens later this month.
Merial Select began business in 1971 as Select labs, a company founded by poultry executives James Evans, Homer Wilson and Max Ward.
It started as a state-licensed maker of vaccine for Marek’s disease, a virus found in poultry.
In 1979, the company received its first USDA license to make vaccines and would be acquired nine years later by Rhone Poulenc, a France-based firm that merged in 1997 with Merck to form Merial.
In 1995, Select acquired a competitor, Sanofi, and two years later bought Central Biologics, a North Carolina firm.
"If you eat chicken in the U.S., the odds are greater than nine out of 10 that the chicken was vaccinated with vaccines made right here in Gainesville," said Appleton, who is retiring from the company after a 27-year career.
In addition to Gainesville, the company has manufacturing sites in Berlin, Md., and Fuquay-Varina, N.C., to serve the broiler belt, where most of the chickens are raised.
He said large numbers of chickens are vaccinated in ovo, or while still an embryo in the egg.
Merial Select had 2007 sales of $37 million in the U.S. and total sales of $84 million. The company does business in 55 countries on six continents.
Merial is a major producer of veterinary medicines, including Heartgard, a preventive for heart worms, and Frontline, a treatment for fleas and ticks. It has its headquarters in Duluth.