08/01/06 — Carolina Turkeys to take Butterball

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Carolina Turkeys to take Butterball

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on August 1, 2006 1:50 PM

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

The companies announced the purchase Monday.

Maxwell Farms and Smith-field 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 today that the acquisition will solidify the company's position in the business.

"I think it will make Carolina Turkeys' place in the industry more secure," he said.

Maxwell 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.

Carolina Turkeys, which opened in 1986, produces about 550 million pounds of processed turkey meat a year, Maxwell said. Butterball produces about 650 million pounds a year.

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

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. Carolina Turkeys operates as an autonomous business entity, but both Goldsboro Milling Co. and Smithfield Foods have been supportive of the company's need to grow and better serve its customers, said Walter Pelletier, a spokesman for Goldsboro Milling. The acquisition of Butterball will enable the company to expand into markets in the Midwest and West that have not previously been open to it, he said.

"Butterball is the most recognized and highly respected brand in our industry," Pelletier said. "This acquisition will allow us to operate in areas that we have not had a strong presence ... The multiple sites will make our company a truly national player."

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.