Looking back: A long history of meat processing in Albert Lea

Published 10:40 am Monday, April 29, 2024

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By Sarah Lilienthal

The history of meat processing in Albert Lea has its roots in the Brundin Meat Market, which started in 1877 on South Broadway, but later moved its processing operations to East Main Street and built two buildings at the turn of the 20th century. Wilson & Co. first came to Albert Lea in 1916, when it acquired the existing meat packing site near Albert Lea Lake. Over the years, the plant was expanded and improved upon to encompass all stages of meat processing and packaging—all with easy access to the railway. During the mid-20th century, Wilson & Co. was one of the largest employers in Albert Lea, with more than 1,800 employees in 1946. In late October 1959 after the contract between Wilson & Co and the United Packinghouse Workers (UPW) union expired, plant employees began a strike that would last until March 1960. In 1983 Wilson & Co. declared bankruptcy, and in March 1984 the facilities were sold to Farmstead Foods. The 1990s were another turbulent time for the plant, as Farmstead filed for bankruptcy and closed the Albert Lea plant in March 1990. It was then purchased by Seaboard Corporation, but retained the Farmstead label for its meat products. A mere five years later, the Albert Lea facilities were bought by Farmland Foods, but unfortunately burned in a fire in July 2001. Farmland filed for bankruptcy in May 2002, and what remained of the Albert Lea plant was demolished in 2003.

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