The image of Norman Rockwell‘s Freedom from Want painting, which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, continues to inspire many Americans to put turkey on their Thanksgiving tables. To become better acquainted with some of the companies behind the labels, let Hoover’s editors share some of what we know about the businesses big in bird.
The Butterball name has become synonymous with turkey. The company leverages its brand status by developing add-on products, such as turkey franks, to expand its portfolio. Annually, the vertically-integrated processor produces 1 billion pounds of turkey. In Mount Olive, North Carolina, Butterball boasts the world’s largest turkey-processing plant. Besides this flagship facility, the meat provider operates plants in Arkansas and Missouri. Last year, ownership of Butterball changed hands when pork behemoth Smithfield Foods sold its 49% stake to Maxwell Farms, which at the time held 51%, for $175 million. Today, Butterball is 50% owned by each Maxwell Farms and agribusiness giant Seaboard Corporation.
Family-owned Perdue Incorporated is one of the top chicken and turkey producers in the US. Its Perdue Farms unit is responsible for processing and packing more than 3 million pounds of poultry annually. Perdue’s operations span some 15 US states and rely on about 2,200 poultry farmers to run live production and processing facilities. Those familiar with Perdue know the company by the color of its chicken. It uses its own breed, the skin of which is a distinct yellow color resulting from a diet that includes marigold petals.
Another vertically-integrated poultry company that shepherds chickens and turkeys from the incubator to meat cases is Foster Poultry Farms. The US poultry processor, which has operations in seven states, sells about 750 products under the Foster Farms brand name. What’s unique to the family-owned and -operated company is that it has earned the distinction of having provided the two turkeys pardoned by President Barack Obama during the 2010 annual ceremony commemorating Thanksgiving at the White House.
The 2011 National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is just days away. Last year, Apple, a 21-week-old tom turkey weighing in at 45 pounds was pardoned first, followed by Cider, his alternate.