Turkey and hog farming giant Bill Prestage dies at age 87

Prestage Farms founder Bill Prestage.

RALEIGH — Known as a turkey and pork powerhouse, William (Bill) H. Prestage, founder of Prestage Farms and Prestage Foods, Inc., has died at age 87. 

He is survived by his wife, Marsha, his three sons Scott, John, and Ron, and multiple grandchildren. 

Friend and colleague Wendell “Dell” Murphy Jr., of a business consulting and services company Murphy Family Ventures, told North State Journal he was “really going to miss” Prestage. 

“I am really going to miss Bill Prestage,” said Murphy. “He has been an agricultural leader in North Carolina and the entire United States. When I think of Bill, I think of his generosity, his love of bird hunting and offshore fishing, and especially his family.” 

Murphy added that Prestage was a “gentle giant and just a good human being.” 

“Bill Prestage was one of the true giants in the pork industry,” the N.C. Pork Council said in a statement issued to North State Journal. “He was an exceptional leader a tremendous businessman, and an even better person. His leadership and innovations changed the shape of North Carolina’s agricultural industry over the past 50 years and he will be sorely missed.” 

The N.C. Pork Council also noted Prestage had been inducted into the N.C. Pork Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Prestage has been known for innovations in turkey production practices such as housing animals inside for safety and health protection, relationships with local growers, and a vertically integrated production process ensuring high-quality products. 

His involvement in agriculture began in the 1960s in Michigan, where Prestage was born and raised. He had been a regional sales manager with Central Soya up until 1967 when he and Marsha bought a 50 percent share in a company known as Carroll’s Foods Inc. 

In 1983, Prestage, along with his wife and his sons, established Prestage Farms. The business describes itself as a “multi-generational family-owned and operated turkey and pork producer and processor.” Prestage Foods was later founded in 2000, following a turkey processing plant purchase near St. Pauls, North Carolina. 

Prestage Farms, headquartered in Clinton, had at one time been considered the nation’s largest turkey and pork producer and was ranked as the sixth largest pork producer in the United States in 2018. 

The company was named Business NC’s Power 100 in 2020 and the company was on pace that year to produce over 1 billion pounds of pork and 600 million pounds of turkey. At that time, Prestage Farms employed some 2,800 people and 475 contract farmers across the country. The profile of Prestage also noted him as being an “avid quail hunter who prides himself on his bird dogs.” 

From 1994 to 2002, Prestage served on the board of Smithfield Foods as well as the North Carolina Natural Gas Corp from 1988 to 1999. 

Prestage Farms isn’t just a going concern in North Carolina. The family’s sons own and oversee production operations in multiple states such as Alabama, Iowa, South Carolina, and Mississippi. 

In July 2021, Prestage Farms announced a $150 million investment plan to construct a new processing facility in Kershaw County, South Carolina. The facility is the second to be built by Prestage in that state.

About A.P. Dillon 1206 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_