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Smithfield Foods' shareholders vote down more humane agenda

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Smithfield Foods defeated two shareholder resolutions aimed at making the company "greener" and more humane, according to a report this morning in the Virginian-Pilot.

At the company's annual meeting Wednesday, 96 percent of the voters opposed a shareholder resolution requesting specific goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions at Smithfield's operations, the paper reported.

Slightly more — 97 percent — voted down efforts by the Humane Society of the United States to get the company to switch to "controlled-atmosphere killing," using inert gases, of turkeys at Butterball.

Before the meeting, Smithfield executives hard argued that the company was only a minority owner of Butterball and didn't control operations at Butterball facilities.

Butterball is based in Garner and employs about 2,500 people at a facility in Mount Olive. The majority owner is privately owned Maxwell Farms of Goldsboro.

In June, Smithfield offered $200 million to buy out Maxwell Farms. According to the Virginian-Pilot report, Pope told shareholders that Maxwell Farms had still not responded to its offer. Maxwell Farms' deadline is Sept. 11. If it rejects the offer or does not respond, Pope has said that Smithfield will pull out of Butterball.

The newspaper also reported that after two years of deep losses, the company was again profitable.

Pope's only concern, according to the paper,  were overseas grain shortages, which could drive up feed costs. He was less worried about the possibility of a double-dip recession.

"Recessions are usually good for the company," Pope said, according to the paper's report. "We're in the protein sector, where people have to eat, and we're in the moderately priced protein sector."

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About the blogger

Mary Cornatzer has worked at The News & Observer for more than 25 years, covering the local music industry, state movie industry and travel. She has been the paper's Business editor since 2000. Contact Mary at 919-829-4755 or e-mail her.