News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
on June 23, 2009

Nation’s top turkey companies: profiles

Top three companies, Butterball, Jennie-O Turkey Store and Cargill, process half of the industry's total.

1. Butterball, LLC, the world's largest turkey company, was formed in the fall of 2006 when Carolina Turkeys purchased the turkey operations of ConAgra Foods, Inc. The company is a joint venture which is 51 percent owned by Goldsboro Milling Co. and 49 percent owned by Smithfield Foods. Maxwell Farms, which is owned by the Maxwell family, is the parent company of Goldsboro Milling.

  • Butterball LLC; Mount Olive, North Carolina
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 1.375 Billion Live Lbs. ↑ 1.93%
  • Cooking Capacity: 6.7 Million Lbs. Per Week

Butterball expects to process 1.456 billion live pounds in 2008, a 5.9 percent increase over 2007. Seven processing plants operate under the Butterball banner. The original Carolina Turkeys plant, opened in 1986, is in Mount Olive, N.C., and it processes more live pounds of turkeys, around 550 million live pounds, than any other plant in the world. Butterball operates four other slaughter plants in Carthage, Mo., Huntsville, Ark., Ozark, Ark., and Longmont, Colo. The Ozark and Huntsville plants are primarily whole bird packing plants. The Longmont plant slaughters, debones and cooks, and the Carthage plant slaughters and debones. Plants that just cook are operated at Jonesboro, Ark., and at Kinston, N.C.

Keith Shoemaker

2. Jennie-O Turkey Store is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation and is the second largest turkey processor in the world. As a fully-integrated business, Jennie-O Turkey Store begins with the egg. The company has 11 breeder farms producing 25 million eggs annually for three company-owned hatcheries and one contract hatchery that hatch nearly 46 million poults annually. The birds are fed from eight feed mills located throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. These feed mills produce 1,450,000 tons of feed annually and supply the majority of feed needs for over 100 company-owned farms, contract growers and independent producers.

  • Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc.; Willmar, Minnesota
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 1.255 Billion Live Lbs. ↓ 0.79%
  • 2008 Slaughter Volume: ↑ 5.5%

Seven processing plants, including four slaughter plants, are operated by Jennie-O Turkey Store in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Jennie-O became a fully-owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation in 1986. The Turkey Store Company was acquired in March of 2001.

Michael Tolbert

3. Cargill Value Added Meats, the nation's third largest turkey company, expects to process 27 million head of hens and 17 million head of toms in 2008. The company expects its slaughter volume to remain at the same level, 961 million live pounds, that it has each of the last two years. Cargill operates three turkey hatcheries and 36 breeder farms. Meat birds are raised on 600 grow out farms, and 90 percent of these are owned by contract growers.

  • Cargill Value Added Meats; Wichita, Kansas
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 961 Million Live Lbs. No Change From 2006
  • Cooking Capacity: 3.5 Million Lbs. Per Week

The company operates six plants, including four slaughter plants, in Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, Nebraska and Texas. Cargill recently added a distribution center to its Springdale, Ark., processing plant.

John O'Carroll

Products are marketed under the Honeysuckle White, Riverside, Shady Brook Farms, Marval and Plantation brands. Cargill, Inc., the parent company of Cargill Value Added Meats, is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products and services.

4. Farbest Foods moved up to fourth in the rankings this year from ninth last year. The company began processing on second shift in February of 2007 at its Huntingburg, Ind., plant. The expansion in production was made to accommodate requests from existing customers. The company plans to convert to control atmosphere stunning in 2008. Farbest expects to increase slaughter volume by 14.4 percent in 2008. The company plans to process and debone 7.8 million head of heavy toms this year.

  • Farbest Foods, Inc.; Huntingburg, Indiana
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 271 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 24%
  • 2008 Slaughter Volume: ↑ 14.4%

5. House of Raeford processed 4.78 million hens and 4.59 million toms in 2007. The company operates one turkey slaughter facility in Raeford, N.C. Slaughter volume is expected to increase by only 0.2 percent in 2008.

  • House of Raeford Farms, Inc.; Raeford, North Carolina
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 254.5 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 2.88%

Cooked turkey products are produced at two of the company's plants. The company operates one 275,000 poults per week hatchery and a 20,000 ton per week feed mill. House of Raeford is privately held, and turkey sales are projected at $280.2 million in FY 2007. The company also operates a chicken division and specializes in servicing foodservice accounts. Products are marketed under the House of Raeford and Lakewood brands.

6. Perdue Farms, Inc.'s, Washington, Ind., plant processed 4.1 million hens and 4.2 million toms in 2007. These birds are all raised on 145 contract farms. The company operates a hatchery and feed mill at its Indiana turkey complex.

  • Perdue Farms, Inc.; Salisbury, Maryland
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 252 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 1.2%

Perdue markets over 400 different turkey products under the Perdue and Shenandoah brands. Sales were $288 million for FY 2007. Perdue is privately held and also has chicken operations. The company was founded in 1920 and now has over 21,000 employees.

James. A. Perdue

7. Foster Farms' Turlock plant does all of the slaughtering, and its forecasted slaughter volume is 4.4 million hens and 4.3 million toms in 2008. Foster's slaughter volume is expected to increase by 10.4 percent in 2008. Almost half of the turkeys processed by Foster are raised on company-owned farms.

  • Foster Farms; Livingston, California
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 248.3 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 11.49%

Over 500 products are marketed under the Foster Farms and Valchris brands. The turkey division of Foster Farms had fiscal year 2007 sales of $324.9 million. Foster Farms has two turkey hatcheries and one feed mill supporting the turkey division. Max and Verda Foster founded the company in 1939 and holdings also include a fully integrated broiler division.

Ron Foster

8. Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative began operations in November of 2004 at the former Pilgrim's Pride plant in Hinton, Va. All of the birds being processed are deboned for meat, including all hens, for use by other further processors. The cooperative has some antibiotic-free production and also raises some organic turkeys. The October 2007 issue of WATT PoultryUSA featured the cooperative's natural meat programs ( The Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative has 140 member-growers.

  • Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative, Inc.; Hinton, Virginia
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 241 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 9.0%


9.  Prestage Foods processes hens and toms on two shifts at its St. Pauls plant. Production is packed as boneless meat, bone-in-breasts, parts and whole birds. Prestage purchased the St. Pauls plant from Rocco, Inc., in 2000.

  • Prestage Foods, LLC; St. Pauls, North Carolina
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 236 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 12.4%

Prestage Farms, the parent company of Prestage Foods, also raises hogs and turkeys for other processors in grow out operations in several states.

10. Sara Lee entered the turkey slaughter business when it purchased Bil Mar Foods in 1987. Sara Lee consolidated all its slaughter operations into the Storm Lake, Iowa, plant several years ago. Slaughter volume has been reduced at the Storm Lake plant since the opening of Dakota Provisions, because some turkeys raised by independent producers in South Dakota, that were processed at Storm Lake in the past, are now being processed at Dakota Provisions.

  • Sara Lee; Storm Lake, Iowa
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 220 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 9.0%

Sara Lee has been actively encouraging contract growers to build more turkey houses in Iowa over the last few years. According to the Iowa Area Development Group, Sara Lee's efforts to expand its contract grower base call for a $46 million expansion of live turkey production facilities. If the project is completed, contract producers would have built 153 turkey barns, and it is estimated that Sara Lee's slaughter volume would be back up to around 300 million live pounds annually. Industry sources did not know how many of these houses have been built at this time.

11. West Liberty Foods is owned by members of the Iowa Turkey Growers Cooperative. The company specializes in slicing and co-packing cooked red meat and poultry products.

  • West Liberty Foods; West Liberty, Iowa
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 217.5 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 10.6%

West Liberty Foods opened its new fabrication, slicing and distribution facility in Tremonton, Utah, last summer. This facility was featured in the January 2008 issue of WATT PoultryUSA ( Investment in the Utah facility is expected to approach $85 million by the end of 2008.

Ed Garrett

The company now operates three plants in Iowa and one in Utah. West Liberty's combined cooking capacity at its plants is 4.0 million pounds per week.

12. Kraft Foods, Inc., Oscar Mayer division, operates one slaughter, deboning and cooking plant in Newberry, S.C. The company purchases its birds from outside suppliers and only processes heavy toms. Industry sources report that Kraft has plans to significantly increase slaughter at the Newberry plant in 2008 by expanding its second shift. Slaughter volume is expected to increase by nearly one quarter in 2008 over 2007 levels. Kraft Foods turkey products are marketed under the Oscar Mayer, Louis Rich and Lunchables brands.

  • Kraft Foods, Inc.; Madison, Wisconsin
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 213 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 3.9%

13. Cooper Farms' St. Henry, Ohio, plant processes and debones around 88,000 head of toms per week. Slaughter volume is expected to increase by 6.7 percent in 2008. Renovations were made to the evisceration and chiller rooms at this facility in 2007. Cooper Farms', Van Wert, Ohio, further processing plant will receive a 30,000 square foot addition in 2008. A feature article on the Van Wert plant appeared in the July 2005 issue of WATT PoultryUSA ( The company also plans to expand its feed mill's ingredient storage and feed load out this year.

  • Cooper Farms; Oakwood, Ohio
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 178 Million Live Lbs. 0%

Cooper Farms is privately held and is celebrating its seventieth anniversary in 2008. The company operates two turkey hatcheries and is a major supplier of poults to the industry, selling over 200,000 poults per week. Cooper Farms also operates table egg laying and swine farms.

Gary Cooper

14. The Michigan Turkey Producers Cooperative members and other investors own Michigan Turkey Producers, LLC. The company's Wyoming, Mich., slaughter and deboning plant began processing turkeys from the cooperative members' 43 farms in March of 2000.

  • Michigan Turkey Producers, LLC; Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 171 Million Live Lbs. No Change from 2006

A new cooked products plant opened in Grand Rapids, Mich., around two miles from the slaughter plant, in February of 2006, and this facility was featured in the September 2006 WATT PoultryUSA ( Additional ovens were added to this facility in 2007 expanding the cooking capacity to 500,000 pounds per week.

Dan Lennon

In addition to housing MTP's cooked products plant, the company's new facility also houses MTP's corporate offices. Much of MTP product is sold as a raw material for further processing by other companies. Cooked sales make up 15 percent of total pounds.

15. Pilgrim's Pride operates one turkey processing plant at New Oxford, Pa. This facility is scheduled to process 9.2 million head of hens and 0.5 million head of toms in 2008.

  • Pilgrim's Pride Corporation; Pittsburg, Texas
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 164 Million Live Lbs. ↓ 1.2%

The company markets its turkey products under the Pilgrim's Signature, Round Hill and Country Pride brands. Sales were 80 percent whole bird, 20 percent raw, non-whole in 2007. Pilgrim's Pride is the country's largest broiler processor and also has table egg operations.

Ken Pilgrim

16. Willow Brook Foods was formed from the Hudson Foods turkey operations after Tyson acquired Hudson in 1998. Willow Brook Foods is owned by Willow Brook management personnel, Powell & Powell Milling and Springfield Underground, Inc.

  • Willow Brook Foods; Springfield, Missouri
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 151 Million Live Lbs. ↓ 2.6%

Powell & Powell Milling operates turkey milling and growing operations in northwest Arkansas. Springfield Underground, Inc., owns and operates a limestone mining operation and an underground storage facility in Springfield, Mo.

Mike Briggs

Willow Brook Foods projects sales of $275 million in FY 2007. Products are marketed under the Willow Brook, Harvest Provisions, Lifestyle Premium Deli and Gourmet Recipe brands. Sales were 55 percent retail, 30 percent foodservice and 15 percent export. Cooked products made up 60 percent of sales. The company does not pack whole birds.

Willow Brook Foods began slicing at its Precision Slicing facility at Springfield Underground in 2005. This facility was featured in the March 2007 issue of WATT PoultryUSA (

17. Norbest, Inc., is the nation's oldest turkey growers cooperative, and it is comprised of two cooperatives, Nebraska Turkey Growers Cooperative and Moroni Feed Company. Nebraska Turkey Growers Cooperative is headquartered in Gibbon, Neb., and it was formed in 1938. There are 21 independent turkey producer members in the cooperative, and they raise around 3 million turkeys per year. Moroni Feed Company is also a cooperative and it has 64 independent turkey grower members. Moroni Feed Company was incorporated in 1938 and raises around 5 million turkeys per year in Utah.

  • Norbest, Inc.; Midvale; Utah
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 175 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 10.8%


18. Western Sales LLC, which is a subsidiary of West Liberty Foods, began serving as the exclusive Norbest marketing agent in 2006. Western Sales markets the products produced at the three plants operated by Moroni Feed Company and Nebraska Turkey Growers Cooperative. These plants produce a complete line of raw and cooked turkey products. In addition to its regular turkeys, Norbest offers all natural, veg-fed, free-range turkeys.

  • Dakota Provisions; Huron, South Dakota
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 145 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 40.8%

Dakota Provisions opened its turkey processing facility in Huron, S.D., in January of 2006. The company expects to process 4.4 million head of toms weighting 172 million pounds in 2008, an increase of 18.6 percent over 2007. This facility has been engineered with two buildings as one, with the ovens being the only connection between the raw and cooked sides of the plant. The plant also has cooked-product slicing capabilities. This facility was featured in the June 2006 WATT PoultryUSA (

Ken Rutledge

Prior to the opening of Dakota Provisions, the Dakota Turkey Growers cooperative members sold their turkeys to Oak Valley Farms, Watertown, S.D., Bil Mar Foods, Storm Lake Iowa, or to Jennie-O Turkey Store. Dakota Provisions is owned entirely by the Dakota Turkey Growers Cooperative, which is comprised of 42 Hutterite colonies and one independent grower.

19. Zacky Farms operates three processing facilities, one slaughter plant, one tray-pack plant and one cooking plant, all in California. Zacky markets a full line of cooked and raw and turkey products under the Zacky Farms Natural, Tender Gold, Californian, Westerner, Sam's Ranch and Zacky Farms ABF brands. Sam's Ranch brand whole birds are marketed as free-range turkeys. The company packs 40 percent of its tonnage as whole birds. Cooked product represents 31 percent of the company's product mix. The company is privately held and was founded in the 1920s.

  • Zacky Farms, LLC; Fresno, California
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 131.3 Million Live Lbs. No Change From 2006

Robert Zacky

20. Turkey Valley Farms moved to Minnesota in 2005, after its Postville, Iowa, plant burned down in 2004. The Marshall plant was formerly a Jennie-O Turkey Store plant. Around 24,000 square feet of the building were torn down and replaced with 27,000 square feet of new building. Now, the oldest construction in the plant dates from 1994. Processing at the Marshall plant commenced in March of 2005. Slaughter volume for 2008 is expected to increase to 115 million live pounds.

  • Turkey Valley Farms; Marshall, Minnesota
  • 105 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 9.5%

Turkey Valley Farms produces whole birds, bone-in-breasts, traypack parts, commodity meat and parts, ground turkey and raw sausage. The product mix is 40 percent whole birds.


21. Northern Pride operates one plant in Thief River Falls, Minn. This facility was owned and operated by Land O'Lakes from 1947 to 1988. The growers supplying this plant formed a cooperative and purchased the plant in 1989. Twenty five independent grower-owners now comprise the cooperative that owns Northern Pride. The company is primarily a private-label packer of whole birds, but products are also packed under the Northern Pride, Snowland and Harvest Gold brands. Slaughter volume is expected to remain unchanged in 2008.

  • Northern Pride Turkey; Thief River Falls, Minnesota
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 40 Million Live Lbs. No Change from 2006

22. Whitewater Processing slaughters and debones breeder hens, breeder toms and young toms. Product is sold as canners and deboned meat to companies that further process the meat for retail and institutional sales. Five percent of the plant's production is exported. Whitewater sells 70 percent of its product fresh and 30 percent frozen. Whitewater, which has 100 employees, was formerly known as Kopps Turkey Sales and is still owned by the Kopp family.

  • Whitewater Processing Co.; Harrison, Ohio
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 31.8 Million Live Lbs. ↓ 11.2%

23. Empire Kosher Poultry is the largest kosher poultry processor in the world. The company processes chickens and turkeys at its Mifflintown, Pa., plant. The plant's cooking capacity is 300 thousand pounds per week. The company markets under the Empire and Galil brands. Empire was founded in 1937.

  • Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc.; Mifflintown, Pennsylvania
  • 2007 Slaugher Volume: 20 Million Live Lbs. No Change From 2006

24. Oak Valley Farms discontinued slaughter operations at its Watertown plant in October of 2007. Oak Valley Farms purchased a company-owned turkey farm from Jennie-O Turkey Store late in 2005, and this facility was expected to raise around 80 percent of Oak Valley's turkeys. Difficulties supplying birds for the processing plant were cited in published reports about the plant closing.

  • Oak Valley Farms; Watertown, South Dakota
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 19 Million Live Lbs. No Change from 2006

25. Plainville Farms, LLC, is a subsidiary of Hain Pure Protein Corporation, a joint venture of the Hain Celestial Group, Inc., and Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P. Hain Celestial participates in natural food categories with such brands as FreeBird Chicken, Celestial Seasonings, Terra Chips, Garden of Eatin', Health Valley, WestSoy, Earth's Best, Arrowhead Mills, Hain Pure Foods, Walnut Acres Organic, Rosetto, Ethnic Gourmet, Yves Veggie Cuisine and others.

  • Painville Farms, LLC; Plainville, New York
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 15 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 10.3%

The Bitz family sold Plainville Farms to Hain Pure Protein in August of 2007. Plainville Farms reports that it invested in new grow out housing, processing equipment, cone deboning equipment and a new refrigerated warehouse in 2007.

Plainville Farms' birds are fed an all-vegetable diet and are raised without antibiotics. The company sells 20 percent of its volume cooked and 20 percent of its volume is sold as whole birds. Production is expected to increase by 1 million live pounds, 6.7 percent, in 2008.

26. Jaindl Turkey Sales has its own breed of turkeys, and it breeds, raises and processes them for the holiday season. Whole birds make up 95 percent of the product mix, with three quarter of the sales being fresh product. Turkeys are packed under the Grand Champion, Harvest and Blue Ribbon Free Range brands. The company also sells Grand Champion brand breasts and Jaindl Smoked Turkeys. Jaindl is privately held and has been in business since 1937.

  • Jaindl Turkey Sales, Inc.; Orefield, Pennsylvania
  • 2007 Slaughter Volume: 10.5 Million Live Lbs. ↑ 5 %
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