Smithfield Foods has announced that its board has elected C. Larry Pope, currently president and chief operating officer, as its new chief executive officer, succeeding Joseph W Luter III with effect from 1 September.

The pork and beef producer announced that Luter is stepping down as CEO on 31 August, after 31 years as chairman and chief executive officer, but will remain as non-executive chairman of the board.

As chairman, Luter will continue to focus on acquisitions and long-term strategic development, the two areas where he believes he can make the greatest contribution to Smithfield, the company said.

"Larry Pope could not be more qualified to be chief executive of Smithfield," Luter said. "For the last 25 years he has worked with me to build this company for the long term, not being distracted by near-term industry dynamics. He has played a vital role in the integration of our many acquisitions we have made to build this company. There could not be a more seamless transition to solidify Smithfield's future. Larry is a dedicated leader who will make the right decisions for employees and shareholders."

After working for four years as an accountant, Pope, 51, joined Smithfield Foods in 1980 as controller. He became vice president, finance in 1999, and was named chief financial officer in 2000. The board elected him president and chief operating officer in 2001.