By Julie Buntjer, Forum News Service on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:05 a.m.
WINDOM, Minn. — One day after employees of PM Beef in Windom were told the beef processing facility would close Dec. 11, officials with the plant are offering more details about the decision to cease operations.
Lisa Hernandez, president of PM Beef Holdings LLC, said Tuesday that the last beef processing plant in southwest Minnesota had last processed beef cattle Sept. 25. At that time, she said the facility “went dark” for a couple of weeks.
“We do a lot of glatt kosher and it was (the Jewish) holiday season,” Hernandez explained.
“They are our major customer, so we were going to take the two weeks off. We had some repairs that we needed to do and a well that we were going to fix. and that was our opportunity to do that.”
Hernandez said there had been “every intention here at the plant level” to start processing again this week. Instead, employees returned to work Monday to learn slaughter will not resume and the plant will close its doors Dec. 11.
“It was pretty sudden,” Hernandez said of the decision. “We have been searching for someone to purchase the plant and take over operations for a while.”
While Hernandez said PM Windom — the last remaining PM Beef plant — had been “open for sale” for the past few years, the facility was actively out for a sale for the past few months.
In that time, beef slaughter at the plant had dropped to about 900 to 1,300 head of cattle per week, and Hernandez said the cattle supply came from a couple hundred or more producers.
Although no slaughter will be done at the plant between now and Dec. 11, Hernandez said the more than 260 employees still have their jobs until the closing date and “have the opportunity to come to work.” Of those employees, approximately 230 worked on the production floor.
She said there are no severance packages being offered to employees at this time.
“We are working with our employees and other companies around the area, trying to bring them in and give them the opportunity to discuss with our employees employment,” Hernandez said.
Local beef producer Matt Widboom had marketed beef cattle to PM Windom for many years because of the company’s all-natural program. That program was discontinued a couple of years ago, however, and Widboom said he hadn’t been marketing to the facility in the recent past.
Still, he said the announced closure of PM Windom is unfortunate.
“It’s disappointing to lose it as a source, but it wasn’t a major player as far as the local commercial herds,” Widboom said.
Beef producers in this area have to transport animals at least 200 miles to reach a commercial slaughter facility.