The St. Cloud-based chicken company behind the Gold’n Plump brand — owned by the same family for 87 years — will be sold for an undisclosed sum to a large, family-owned hog producer, The Maschhoffs LLC.

Gold’n Plump producer GNP will remain based in St. Cloud, and southern Illinois-based Maschhoffs will operate it as a separate unit. GNP’s nearly 1,700 employees and 350 chicken growers will be retained.

“It is business as usual,” said GNP CEO Mike Helgeson, who will remain in that position.

Helgeson’s grandfather founded the company in 1926, selling chicks to local farmers. His dad and uncle began expanding into integrated chicken production in the 1950s.

Today, GNP has production plants in Cold Spring, Minn., Luverne, Minn., and Arcadia, Wis. Gold’n Plump chicken is a staple in Twin Cities grocery stores.

The company is expected to have $400 million in annual sales this year, and according to trade publication PoultryUSA, it’s the 18th-largest U.S. chicken producer. GNP is one of the few producers of any size outside the South, the country’s main chicken-raising region.

Helgeson said GNP had been looking for a partner to get money for further growth. Its production plants and feed mills are running at full capacity.

“As a company, we have experienced very strong growth in the past number of years,” Helgeson said. “We feel there are continued growth opportunities, and to pursue these we will need to invest in and expand our facilities, and that takes significant capital.”

For Maschhoffs, buying GNP represents diversification. The company says it is the largest family-owned pork producer in North America, and according to Successful Farming magazine, it’s the fourth-largest overall U.S. hog firm with 208,000 sows. The Maschhoffs is expected to have around $825 million in sales this year.

The company, based about 50 miles east of St. Louis in Carlyle, Ill., dates to 1851 when the Maschhoff family began farming. It is currently owned by fifth-generation family members.

The Maschhoffs has grown in recent years through acquisitions, including a 2005 buyout of the swine operations of Land O’Lakes, the big Arden Hills-based farmers’ cooperative. That deal doubled the size of its pork operation. The Maschhoffs has no hog operations in Minnesota; Illinois and Missouri are its largest states for pig production.