No. 1 ranked turkey producer Butterball LLC plans to hold production steady in 2011 at 1.3 billion live pounds, no change from the previous year. Production restraint among the top-ranked U.S. turkey producers, in fact, appears to be the pattern for 2011, according to WATT PoultryUSA’s 2011 poultry rankings.

Sara Lee plans 12.1% production increase  

Among the top 7 turkey producers, only No. 5 ranked Sara Lee reports a significant increase in planned production for 2011. The Storm, Lake, Iowa-based turkey division of the global consumer brands company projects an increase in live production from 330 million pounds in 2010 to 370 million pounds in 2011, which would be an increase of 12.1%.

Largest turkey producers won't grow  

No. 2 ranked Jennie-O Turkey Store projects a modest 0.3% increase, as the company plans to raise live pounds of turkey production from 1.286 billion in 2010 to 1.290 billion in 2011.

Of the remaining four turkey producers in the top 7, two report plans to hold production at the same level as 2010 and two project decreases in 2011. No. 3 ranked Cargill Value Added Meats plans no increase in production for 2011, holding steady at 1.095 billion pounds. No 4 ranked Farbest Foods and No. 6 ranked Kraft Foods project decreases in production in 2011 of 3.7% and 3.4%, respectively. No. 7 ranked Perdue Farms reports no increase planned for 2011.

Mid-size turkey producers plan growth  

Mid-size turkey producers, in contrast, appear ready to grow production aggressively in 2011, according to WATT PoultryUSA’s rankings. Among the No. 8- through No. 18-ranked producers, only one reports no plans to increase production. Production increases in this group range from 0.8% (Zacky Farms) to 33.7% (West Liberty Foods), with the median increase in production of live pounds of turkey in 2011 at 6.4%.

Other companies planning to boost production in 2011 include Turkey Valley Farms +13.6%, Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative +9.4%, Foster Farms +8.9%, Prestage Foods +6.9%, Michigan Turkey Producers +5.9%, Cooper Farms +5.1%, House of Raeford Farms +4.6%, Dakota Provisions +2.5%.

Capital improvements at turkey companies  

The following capital investments in turkey facilities were reported:

  • Dakota Provisions constructed a warehouse at a cost of $500,000 and invested $2,800,000 in equipment in 2010. Capital investments planned for 2011 include $3.0 million for a by-products plant (joint venture); $2.0 million for production equipment; $1.0 million for building improvements; and $1.3 million for information systems.
  • Cooper Farms in 2010 added a 50,000-square-foot slicing addition to its cooked plant in Van Wert, Ohio, at a cost of $15 million. Improvements planned for 2011 installation of a HPP (High Pressure Pastuerization) system to its slicing operation.
  • Michigan Turkey Producers added new ovens in 2010 to increase cooking capacity to 40 million pounds a year.

Ownership changes 
Butterball LLC was purchased by Maxwell Farms LLC and Seaboard Corporation in December of 2010. The two buyers are now equal partners in the brand, having purchased the minority interest of Murphy-Brown LLC, which was previously a partner in Butterball with Maxwell Farms.

In early January, 2011, Sara Lee Corporation’s board was considering the possibility of breaking up the company as it waited for a response from potential purchaser JBS SA of Brazil. Other potential bidders for Sara Lee included Apollo Global Management and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

The Kosher Valley antibiotic-free chicken and turkey brand was purchased by Empire Kosher from Hain Pure Protein in May of 2010. The deal included an equity interest in Empire for Hain.