WILLMAR, Minn. — Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc., announced today, out of an abundance of caution, that it will temporarily pause operations at its Willmar Avenue and its Benson Avenue facilities, both located in Willmar, Minn. Based on information about the community spread of COVID-19 in the area, the company decided it was the right decision to pause operations to undergo a facility-wide cleaning that will enhance already robust safety and sanitization protocols. Under its pay program, all Jennie-O Turkey Store employees will continue to receive 100 percent of their base pay and benefits during the pause in production. Jennie-O Turkey Store is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation (NYSE:HRL).
“The health, well-being and safety of our team members is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to take a pause in operations,” said Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store. “We are being thoughtful and considerate in our approach to this process. I want to recognize our production professionals for continuing to do an outstanding job as they work to keep food on tables during this unprecedented time. I am very proud of them and I look forward to being back together as soon as we are able.”
“During this pause, we will maintain our thorough food processing sanitation practices, as well as the enhanced procedures that we have been employing since the emergence of COVID-19. The facilities will be deep cleaned, including all common areas and high-touch surfaces,” Lykken added. “Lastly, we have implemented wellness screenings, provided masks and additional personal protective equipment and enhanced safety and sanitation protocols throughout our facilities. We are working closely with external partners as we also develop our plan for reopening when the time is appropriate. As a longstanding and respected Minnesota company, our goal is to always do the right thing.”
“Jennie-O Turkey Store is leading with best-in-industry practices including detailed employee wellness screenings, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, effective physical distancing and PPE usage, and active employee quarantining that exceeds current CDC guidelines. These measures are designed to protect the company’s employees and the safety of their products and customers,” said Dr. David Acheson M.D., founder and CEO of the Acheson Group who is trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases and previously a chief medical officer at the FDA.
“Local public health is here to help support Jennie-O Turkey Store and its employees, just as we are for the entire Kandiyohi County community,” said Jennie Lippert, health and human services director for Kandiyohi County. “The proactive measures which Jennie-O Turkey Store is taking will help mitigate the transmission rate within our county.”
Operations will wind down throughout the weekend. As of Thursday, 14 employees out of more than 1,200 had tested positive for COVID-19. The company has encouraged its staff to get tested, now that additional tests are available. Health experts have told the company that as testing increases so will positive results. The company has strategic operation protocols and plans to ensure business continuity, including the use of its other facilities to continue to serve its customers during this time.
This release contains forward-looking information based on management’s current views and assumptions. Actual events may differ materially. Please refer to the cautionary statements regarding “Risk Factors” and “Forward-Looking Statements” that appear on pages 30-35 in the company’s Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended Jan. 26, 2020, which can be accessed at hormelfoods.com in the “Investors” section.