GOLDSBORO, N.C. – Smithfield Foods Inc. has offered Maxwell Farms LLC $200 million for its 51% ownership of Butterball LLC, said Smithfield's president and chief executive officer, C. Larry Pope, last week. As part of a joint venture with Maxwell Farms, Smithfield, which has a 49% stake in Butterball, exercised its right to either offer to buy out its partner or have its portion purchased by its partner.

But Maxwell Farms isn’t interested in selling its majority stake, according to a report in The Virginia Pilot.

"We believe in the long-term business outlook of Butterball, and we are currently pursuing several opportunities that will allow us to proceed with our desire to be the buyer of Butterball," said Walter Pelletier, president of Maxwell Farms, in a statement. He described Butterball as "the strongest brand in the turkey industry."

Pope said Butterball has been "underinvested in" and needs a new management structure. Maxwell Farms must respond by September. If it rejects Smithfield's offer, Pope said Smithfield would sell its share of the Butterball business.