Carolina Turkeys grows with Butterball

04-08-2006 | |

Carolina Turkeys will buy the Butterball turkey brand name and operation, making the company the largest turkey producer in the United States.

Maxwell Farms and Smithfield Foods own Carolina Turkeys, which has a processing plant near Mount Olive.

Gordon Maxwell, the president of Goldsboro Milling Co., the parent company of Maxwell Farms, said that the acquisition will solidify the company’s position in the business.

Carolina Turkeys, which opened in 1986, produces about 250,000 tonnes of processed turkey meat a year, Maxwell said.

Butterball produces about 295,000 tonnes a year.

Butterball operates five processing plants — three in Arkansas, one in Missouri and one in Colorado. Those operations will not change, Maxwell said.

Maxwell also said no major changes will occur in the companies’ Wayne and Duplin county operations, but he said some Butterball brand turkeys might be packed at the Mount Olive plant and that some turkeys grown by area farmers could end up sporting the Butterball brand.

The Carolina Turkeys plant, built in 1986 as a joint venture between Goldsboro Milling Co. and Carrolls’ Foods, employs about 2,400 people.

Smithfield Foods bought the Carroll’s interest in 1999.

Butterball has been a leading name in turkey production for nearly half a century. It is a division of ConAgra Foods, one of the largest packaged food companies in North America.

The deal is part of Smithfield’s buyout of ConAgra’s refrigerated meats business. Under the terms of the agreement, ConAgra will receive $475 million in cash and $100 million in Smithfield Foods stock, according to ConAgra’s Web site.

The overall deal includes the Butterball, Eckrich, Armour, LunchMakers, Margherita, and Longmont brands.

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