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Jennie-O founder Olson dead at 91

WILLMAR -- Earl B. Olson, founder of Jennie-O Foods in Minnesota, died Monday morning at the age of 91.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Harvey-Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar.

Born and raised on a farm north of Murdock, Olson started his career in 1940 managing a small co-op creamery in Benson and raising turkeys on the side. In 1949, he bought his first turkey processing plant in Willmar, which processed 1.5 million pounds of New York dressed turkeys that year.

Olson's company soon began concentrating on turkeys and in 1953 his Farmer's Produce Company converted to a USDA inspected eviscerated turkey product. The product was named Jennie-O after Earl and Dorothy Olson's daughter, Jennifer.

The company changed its name in 1971 to Jennie-O Foods. This company was the first to develop a turkey hot dog. Jennie-O was sold to Hormel Foods Corporation in 1986. Today, the company is known as Jennie-O Turkey Store.

Olson's leadership help make Minnesota the leading turkey producing state in the nation. He was the first to introduce pan-roasted turkey. He also was a pioneer of vertical integration in the turkey industry, a process in which several steps in the turkey production and/or distribution of a product conducted by a single company.