February 19, 2009


US Butterball LLC cuts 150 jobs in processing plant


Butterball LLC, in North Carolina, US, is cutting about 150 positions, from its processing plant in Huntsville, the company stated in a news release Tuesday (Feb 18).


The move came the same day Butterball stakeholder Smithfield Foods Inc. said it plans to cut 1,800 jobs and close six plants.


The Butterball cuts are expected to take place March 9, the release stated.


Butterball LLC chief executive officer Keith Shoemaker attributed the company's problems to government ethanol subsidies driving up the cost of feed grains and record fuel prices.


Butterball LLC spokesman Kipp Bodnar said that the layoffs were not part of the restructuring of Smithfield Foods.


Smithfield Foods president and chief executive officer C. Larry Pope said Smithfield Foods was switching its focus from buying up its hard-pressed competitors to operating more efficiently.


Huntsville Area Chamber of Commerce president Richard Gillham said the plant has often cut or expanded the third shift, or the overnight staff, as the economy and the demands of the turkey market dictated.


Smithfield Foods acquired an interest in three Arkansas turkey plants in late 2006 as part of a US$575 million cash and stock acquisition of most of ConAgra Food Inc.'s branded meats business.


The plants operate under Butterball LLC, with a 51 percent ownership by Maxwell Farms Inc. of Goldsboro, North Carolina, and a 49 percent stake by Smithfield Foods.


Smithfield's restructuring plan includes reducing the number of independent operating companies in the pork group to three from seven.


Four existing independent operating companies will be combined under the various business units of The Smithfield Packing Company Inc., John Morrell & Co. and Farmland Foods, Inc.