Avian flu impact reaches jobs at Minnesota Jennie-O turkey plant

Avian flu impact reaches jobs at Minnesota Jennie-O turkey plant

Jennie-O, division of Hormel, to idle 233 workers in Fairbault, Minn., on bird flu outbreak

Starting May 26, more than 200 workers will be laid off at the Fairbault, Minn., Jennie-O turkey processing plant due to impacts of the avian flu outbreak, according to several reports Tuesday.

Related: USDA, CDC officials answer avian flu questions

The layoffs are temporary, spokespersons say, but the plant will move to one turkey processing shift for the "forseeable future," the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Other Jennie-O plants in surrounding Midwestern states are not impacted by the change. The Fairbault plant employs about 650 workers. About 82 Minnesota farms have tested positive for avian flu, the Star Tribune report said.

Avian flu has been reported in several chicken and turkey farms across the U.S., with about 21 million birds affected

Though bird flu is currently classified by CDC as a "low" risk to humans, it is lethal to birds and poultry. USDA officials said late last month that poultry owners should ensure safety of their flock by preventing contact with wild birds. The flu can be spread through water, also, and officials said backyard flocks should be provided with clean water to avoid contamination.

Hormel warned on April 20 that lower turkey supply as a result of bird flu "is expected to impact plant operations and cause reduced sales volumes as the year progresses."

Related: Avian flu timeline: A recap of HPAI headlines

"We are experiencing significant challenges in our turkey supply chain due to the recent HPAI outbreaks in Minnesota and Wisconsin," Jeffrey Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, said April 20. "While Jennie-O Turkey Store has delivered strong financial performance so far in the first half, tight meat supplies and operational challenges will pressure earnings in the back half of our fiscal year."

All flocks are tested for influenza prior to processing, Jennie-O noted at the time. No birds diagnosed with HPAI are allowed to enter the food chain.

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