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Approximately 200 employees of Pilgrim's Pride in Luverne, Minn., learned they will lose their jobs by the end of this year. The plant will close Dec. 29. (Jessica Buntjer/Forum News Service)

Full story: Pilgrim’s Pride to close Luverne facility

LUVERNE, Minn. — Approximately 200 employees of Pilgrim’s Pride learned Tuesday afternoon their jobs at the Luverne, Minn., facility will be eliminated by the end of this year. Citing inefficiencies, the company plans to shift production and equipment to other operations.

“The Pilgrim’s team explored several options before arriving at the difficult decision to close the Luverne facility,” said Jayson Penn, Head of Pilgrim’s USA, in the release. “We recognize the impact this has on our Luverne team, their families and the local community, and we will make every effort to assist in future job placement, including relocation opportunities at other company locations for all impacted employees.”

Penn called Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian Tuesday afternoon to break the news. It isn’t known how many of the employees live in Rock County or commute from homes in the tri-state area.

“They’re going to offer relocation assistance with their sister company, JBS Swift, in Worthington,” Baustian said he was told by Penn. “They (JBS) are offering to pick up as many workers who want to come over there because it’s a commutable distance.”

Cheri Schnieder, media spokeswoman for Pilgrim’s Pride, said late Tuesday that relocation packages are also being offered to all employees of the Luverne facility who are interested in moving. Approximately 100 jobs are being created at the Cold Spring facility, which will handle some of the production currently done at Luverne.

“Of course, we want to keep as many jobs as we can here,” Baustian said.

Pilgrim’s Pride opened in Luverne in 1998, rejuvenating a facility that had housed Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) for decades. The building was converted to produce frozen and convenience chicken products.

Currently, Pilgrim’s is transporting approximately 800,000 pounds of chicken to Luverne from its Cold Spring facility each week for further processing.

Schneider said the Luverne facility concentrated on frozen products, with some deboning of chicken also.

“Their value-added product they were doing in Luverne just didn’t pan out for profitability so they are shutting that down,” Baustian said.

Much of the chicken processing equipment inside the Luverne facility will be moved to Cold Spring.

The press release states the facility closure will have no impact on the company’s overall production capacity. Pilgrim’s Pride employs approximately 55,000 people and operates chicken processing plants and prepared foods facilities in 14 states, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the U.K, Ireland and continental Europe.

Baustian has already connected with Rep. Tim Walz’s office and has a meeting tentatively planned for next Monday with Walz’s staff and representatives of the Minnesota Workforce Center and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“We’re going to try to get as many ideas on this as possible,” Baustian said, adding that the building will be for sale and the hope is to get another processor into the facility.

“(Pilgrim’s Pride has) done a lot of improvements to the plant out there — freezers, motors, lighting and efficiencies,” Baustian added.

The official plant closure is slated for Dec. 29.