Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Melrose resumes operations

After being closed since April 28 when 19 employees tested positive for the coronavirus, the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant in Melrose has resumed operations.

A healthcare worker holds a COVID-19 test tube at the drive-through testing site for Jennie-O Turkey Store employees Thursday in Willmar. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Jennie-O Turkey Store turkey processing plant in Melrose resumed operations Friday after being shut down last month when several employees tested positive for COVID-19.

In a news release, Jennie-O Turkey Store said the company restarted phased operations Friday with a core group of team members and plans to “ramp up production over the next fews days.”

On April 28, the company announced it would temporarily close the Melrose plant after 19 of the approximately 750 employees there tested positive for the coronavirus.

Action to reopen the Melrose plant follows Jennie-O's announcement Thursday that its two processing plants in Willmar would reopen after being closed since the weekend of April 26-27 when they learned that 14 of its Willmar Avenue plant employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

A team of employees and contractors conducted a deep cleaning and sanitation processes in both of the Willmar facilities, and this week about 1,000 Jennie-O employees in Willmar were being tested for COVID-19.


Those test results will be used to develop a roster to schedule employees who are able to safely return to the Willmar Avenue and Benson Avenue plants on Monday, according to Jennie-O, with production starting at about half the normal level through the next week and increasing when it’s safe to do so.

Meanwhile, Jennie-O announced Thursday that three employees tested positive for COVID-19 at its facility in Pelican Rapids but so far operations are continuing there normally "with enhanced safety precautions" and there’s no indication that the plant will temporarily pause its operations.

Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, said in the news release that the company is taking “industry-leading efforts” to protect employees and the communities where their plants are located.

“We have put the safety of our staff first throughout this pandemic and will continue to do so,” Lykken said.

While taking steps to reopen the closed facilities, Lykken said they are implementing a new awareness initiative called “Keep COVID Out” that reinforces the preventive measures to keep COVID-19 out of “our building and out of our communities.”

Jennie-O Turkey Store is comprised of 12 lay farms, three hatcheries, more than 100 commercial growing farms, eight feed mills and seven processing plants across Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to an online company profile , and employs more than 7,000 in total. Two processing plants are located in Willmar. Others are in Faribault, Melrose, Montevideo and Pelican Rapids in Minnesota and one in Barron, Wisconsin.

Jennie-O Turkey Store is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation , based in Austin, Minn.

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