Turkey processing company Carolina Turkeys has finalised the purchase of the Butterball Turkey brand from ConAgra Foods, for a purchase price of US$325m. The acquisition of Butterball, the most widely recognised turkey producer in the US, repositions Carolina Turkeys as the nation's largest producer of turkey products.

The expanded company expects production to reach 1.4bn pounds in 2006, or 20% of total turkey production in the US.

Reflecting the high brand recognition of Butterball, Carolina Turkeys has rebranded itself, changing the company name to Butterball, LLC.

In 2005 Carolina Turkeys, which had previously been a commodity business selling whole birds and turkey products to grocery retailers and food service operators, began to shift its focus to become a branded, value-added business. The company first introduced Just Perfect, a premium line of fresh and frozen meat products at this time.

"The primary beneficiary of this acquisition is our customer," said Keith Shoemaker, president and CEO. "Now we can offer customers the best turkey brand and best commodity product from one single source."

In addition to the Butterball brand, Carolina Turkeys has acquired more than 3,200 employees and five processing plants. No layoffs are planned as a result of the acquisition.

"Our goal is to take the good from each company and combine them to make a truly great company," said Shoemaker. "Over the next year, we will identify creative ways to use the power of this brand to build more enthusiasm for turkey in the American diet. We anticipate that the entire turkey industry will benefit from this union by generating a greater demand for turkey products."

Carolina Turkeys was a joint venture of Maxwell Farms and Smithfield Foods. Maxwell Farms has taken a 51% stake in Butterball while Smithfield will hold the remaining 49%.