Employees of one of Big Lake’s largest employers are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 virus.
Cargill has temporarily stopped production at its Cargill Kitchen Solutions plant in Big Lake, idling about 200 workers that Carill estimated to work at the plant by late 2019.
Due to COVID-19, the food system continues to respond to significant shifts in demand, according to Cargill officials.
That shift has resulted in slowdowns in foodservice such as restaurants, cafeterias, and vendors in stadiums while there is a strong demand in retail and grocery.
Cargill’s approach to food production has shifted temporarily, including a decrease in production demand for egg-based products produced in Big Lake and its sister plant in Monticello.
Those locations produce egg products for businesses like McDonald’s, Jimmy Dean and Sara Lee.
Operations in Monticello remained vibrant as of Tuesday, April 14.
“With this idling, we had to make the very difficult decision to temporarily lay off employees at this facility. Cargill team members affected will be eligible for unemployment and an extension of Cargill health benefits for up to six months. Many team members also will receive an additional two weeks’ pay. We are hopeful this will be a short-term move and will work with our employees regularly on a return-to-work timeline,” Cargill officials told the Monticello Times late in the evening of Monday, April 13.
Even with these temporary operational decisions, Cargill will be able to address customer and consumer demand through its broad geographic footprint and agile supply chain, company officials stated.
Jon Nash, Leader of Cargill Protein - North America, released the following statement: “We care about our people. Our focus is on getting our employees back to work as soon as safely possible. Every person affected is a valued member of our team. Our employees are working hard to keep food on tables in local communities,” Nash said.
“Cargill provides an essential service to the world. While some locations are closed, our work does not stop. We’re working with customers every day to keep protein on shelves,’ he said.
In 2019 Cargill completed a $20 million expansion of the Big Lake facility.
The Big Lake expansion included adding capabilities to pasteurize, mix and cook a number of additional egg products for food service and protein ingredient customers.
The expansion doubled the facility’s annual requirement for eggs from family farms in the area to 170 million, company officials stated in August 2018.
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