Pork processing giantSeaboard Foods , Shawnee Mission, Kan., agreed last Friday to become a joint partner in turkey processorButterball LLC. Seaboard, a unit of Seaboard Corp., said it expects on or before Dec. 10, 2010, to buy a 49 percent minority share in Butterball previously owned by Smithfield Foodsand itsMurphy-Brown LLCbusiness.

The other Butterball partner is former majority share ownerMaxwell Farms, LLC, Goldsboro, N.C. Terms of a new deal between Maxwell and Seaboard provide for both companies to be joint, 50-50 percent owners.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Seaboard and moving forward as the buyer of Butterball, the strongest brand in the turkey industry,” said Walter Pelletier, Maxwell Farms president. “Seaboard is a strong, diversified company with a great reputation in the agriculture and food industries, and we are confident the partnership will be mutually beneficial for both companies.”

Added Steve Bresky, Seaboard Corp. chairman, president and CEO, “Butterball is an iconic brand name in the United States, representing superior quality, outstanding value and excellent customer service. We look forward to our participation with the Butterball management team and the Maxwell group and bringing additional value to Butterball.”

C. Larry Pope, Smithfield president and CEO, noted, "As previously stated, our minority ownership position in Butterball did not permit us to execute the growth strategy that we believe was necessary to fully develop the company to its potential. Accordingly, we are exiting the business, and will use the sale proceeds to further de-lever our balance sheet."

Headquartered in Garner, N.C., Butterball produces more than 1 billion pounds of turkey each year, and the company supplies its products to more than 30 countries, officials said. The industry leader has seven U.S. plants.

“We are excited about Seaboard Corporation’s new partnership which will make Butterball a part of the Seaboard Foods family of brands," said Rod Brenneman, Seaboard Foods president and CEO. "We will be working together with our new partners in not only bringing additional value to Butterball, but also in working to bring additional value to Seaboard Foods, our customers and our brands.”

Maxwell Farms, LLC is an affiliated company ofGoldsboro Milling Company. Officials said Goldsboro Milling began in 1916 as a feed mill that sold bag feed across eastern North Carolina. It soon turned its attention to bulk feed and in 1958 began to grow turkeys. In the mid 1980’s, Goldsboro Milling joined with Carroll’s Foods to form Carolina Turkeys, which is now Butterball. In the late 1980’s, Goldsboro Milling added swine, and today is the tenth largest swine producer in the U.S. Goldsboro Milling also invests in land and timber.

Similar to Butterball, Seaboard Foods is an integrated food company and it is the nation's second largest pork producer, officials said. Seaboard Foods brands include PrairieFresh Premium Pork and Daily’s Premium Meats.