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Carolina Turkeys Soon To Be Nation's Largest Turkey Producer

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GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Carolina Turkeys, which is jointly owned by Maxwell Farms of Goldsboro and Smithfield Foods, is on its way to becoming the largest turkey processor in the United States.

Smithfield, which owns 49 percent of Carolina Turkeys, on Monday announced it was acquiring the branded meat business of ConAgra Foods in a deal worth $575 million cash and stock.

Of that total, $375 million is for ConAgra's Butterball turkey brand.

Combined with Butterball, Carolina Turkeys will vault past Jennie-O Turkey Store and Cargill Turkey Products to take over the No. 1 spot, based on statistics from the National Turkey Federation. Butterball ranked third just ahead of Carolina Farms. Jennie-O was first and Cargill second.

Sales of the combined turkey operations will be about $600 million, according to Smithfield Foods.

Smithfield will also acquire the packaged meats brands of Armour, Eckrich, Margherita, Longmont and LunchMakers from ConAgra.

"The addition of Butterball is a big positive for Carolina Turkeys' business. Butterball is well-recognized and highly-trusted with strong brand equity and national distribution," said Larry Pope, chief executive officer of Smithfield, in a statement.

Carolina Turkeys was founded in 1985 by Maxwell Farms and Carroll's Foods. Smithfield purchased Carroll's Foods interest in Carolina Turkeys in 1999.

The company operates a turkey plant covering more than 1 million square feet in Mt. Olive. It is the world's largest turkey processing facility. Carolina Turkeys employs more than 2,500 people.

The Mt. Olive plant can process more than 80,000 turkeys a day. Its ovens can produce 10,000 pounds of turkey an hour.

Gordon Maxwell, the president of Goldsboro Milling Co., which is the parent of Maxwell Farms, told The Goldsboro News-Argus that the five plants operated by Butterball in Arkansas, Colorado and Missouri would not be affected by the acquisition.

Smithfield is the world's largest hog producer.