A billionaire British Indian tycoon known as the “chicken king” has been revealed to be the man who controls a series of chicken factories behind a major hygiene inquiry.
Ranjit Singh is the founder chairman of the 2 Sisters Food Group and has an estimated personal fortune of £840 million shared with his wife Baljinder Boparan. The couple are ranked the fifth richest British Indians in the UK.
Singh’s company was at the centre of an investigation by the Guardian newspaper which revealed a slew of health and hygiene violations in the production of poultry for some of the biggest supermarket chains in Britain.
Several supermarkets supplied by 2 Sisters Food have now launched investigations into the revelations, including claims that the company distributed contaminated chicken.
An undercover reporter for the Guardian found evidence that chickens that fell on to the factory floor at two factories were put back into the food chain and that feathers, guts and offal were left to pile up for hours while production continued at a factory in Wales.
As well as allegations of poor hygiene at its factories, the company is also facing claims about poor working conditions and low wages.
Singh, 46, is said to have built his company from scratch. 2 Sisters Food operates factories around the UK and employs a staggering 24,000 people.
Singh reportedly began his career working in a butcher’s shop in Bilston, near Wolverhampton. He started the 2 Sisters group in West Bromwich in 1993 with a small loan.
Since then the business has grown rapidly and has become the second largest food production company in the UK. In 2011, Singh paid cash to buy Northern Foods, the company that supplies ready meals to Marks and Spencer, and produces Goodfellas frozen pizzas and Fox’s biscuits.
2 Sisters also supplies chicken to Asda, Morrisons as well as British Airways and Harrods, earning Singh the nickname ‘Chicken King’.
2 Sisters Food now controls a fifth of the market for poultry, slaughtering more than six million birds per week.
Singh is also active in the seafood sector after buying out Grimsby-based Five Star foods and has reportedly entered the seafood ready meal business following a deal with Marks and Spencer.
The secretive Mr Singh – he has never given a media interview – made news back in 2006 when his 21-year-old son Antonio was jailed following a car crash that left a one-year-old boy paralyzed and brain damaged.
Antonio had been travelling at 72mph in a 30mph zone in his Range Rover at the time of the crash and was jailed for 21 months for reckless driving. The Singh family is said to have set up a substantial trust for the toddler’s family.
Singh’s family also run the Boparan Trust, set up to ‘help wipe out child poverty, work with social services and professionals on programmes for disabled youngsters, help vulnerable children and improve education in deprived communities.’
The company has responded to the Guardian’s claims saying the allegations are “untrue, misleading and inaccurate” and that the company’s factories have been given the highest possible certifications for food standards.