ELIZABETHTOWN — Butterball LLC, the nation’s largest turkey producer, is expanding its Raeford operations to include a new production line for turkey bacon products.
According to a statement from the company, it will add 50 jobs to its Hoke County workforce, which currently totals more than 100. Garner-based Butterball will invest nearly $20 million in the project.
“Butterball’s continued commitment to Hoke County highlights the strength of our consumer foods sector,” said Don Porter, director of Raeford/Hoke County Economic Development. “The company’s arrival here nearly three years ago has renewed excitement in our community, in addition to creating obvious economic momentum with these new jobs and investment dollars.”
The county’s unemployment rate as of October was 5.1 percent, Porter said, down from 6.7 percent in October 2016.
Butterball arrived in Hoke County in February 2015, assuming part of the operations formerly held by House of Raeford, another large food manufacturer with operations in Southeastern North Carolina. Demand by diet-conscious consumers accounts for the growing popularity of turkey bacon, which contains fewer calories and less fat than traditional pork bacon.
“When Butterball opened the Raeford plant in 2015, we knew we had a great workforce and a state of the art facility, but the overall operation has exceeded our expectations,” said Barry Gum, Butterball chief financial officer.
Butterball produces more than a billion pounds of consumer turkey products annually that are distributed throughout the U.S. and in more than 45 countries. The company operates processing plants in North Carolina, Arkansas and Missouri.