Slaughterers and Meat Packers

FONT SIZE:Minus Font SizePlus Font Size PRINTER-FRIENDLY Print

Summary

Meat trimmers and packers
Many beef processing workers remove the bones from large sections of beef.
Quick Facts: Slaughterers and Meat Packers
2010 Median Pay $23,380 per year
$11.24 per hour
Entry-Level Education Less than high school
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2010 89,100
Job Outlook, 2010-20 8% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 7,400

What Slaughterers and Meat Packers Do

Slaughterers and meat packers kill and clean animals, divide carcasses into manageable sections, and grind or otherwise prepare and pack products, such as boxed beef, for shipping to distribution centers.

Work Environment

The slaughtering floors of most processing facilities are rarely climate controlled and may become very hot during the summer and very cold during the winter. Slaughterers and meat packers have to stand for the majority, if not all, of their shift.

How to Become a Slaughterer or Meat Packer

Slaughterers and meat packers do not need formal education. They get on-the-job training. 

Pay

The median annual wage of slaughterers and meat packers was $23,380 in May 2010. 

Job Outlook

Employment of slaughterers and meat packers is expected to increase by 8 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations. Population growth and international trade will increase demand for these workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of slaughterers and meat packers with similar occupations.

O*NET

O*NET provides comprehensive information on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

Contacts for More Information

Learn more about slaughterers and meat packers by contacting these additional resources.

What Slaughterers and Meat Packers Do About this section

Meat trimmers and packers
A worker prepares a pig for processing.

Slaughterers and meat packers kill and clean animals, divide carcasses into manageable sections, and grind or otherwise prepare and pack products, such as boxed beef, for shipping to distribution centers.

Duties

Slaughterers and meat packers typically do the following:

  • Slaughter animals and cut meat and poultry into smaller portions
  • Operate machinery, such as motorized saws, conveyors, or electrical stunning equipment
  • Grind, chop, or cut meat into retail sizes and package it for shipping
  • Comply with industry health standards

Slaughterers and meat packers may use large, suspended power saws for quartering beef carcasses, knives for boning, or wrapping machines and forklifts for packing and shipping the meat. Most food-manufacturing plants require slaughterers and meat packers to clean, salt, and cut beef quarters and large portions into tenders and chucks to prepare them for retail sale.

Slaughterers and meat packers typically work in either slaughtering yards or processing facilities. They may be rotated through stations, doing different tasks each shift.

Some types of slaughterers follow religious specifications. For example, halal and kosher slaughterers follow strict guidelines during the slaughtering process to make sure that the product can qualify for religious specifications of what is permissible to eat.

Work Environment About this section

Slaughterer and meat packers
Slaughterers and meat packers divide carcasses into saleable sections.

Slaughterers and meat packers held about 89,100 jobs in 2010.

The slaughtering floors of most processing facilities are rarely climate controlled and may become very hot during the summer and very cold during the winter. Slaughterers and meat packers have to stand for the majority, if not all, of their shift.

Because they typically work on an assembly line, slaughterers and meat packers tend to do one specific function (one cut) during their shift. However, they may change stations each shift. Thus, in some plants, slaughterers and meat packers are as likely to be trimming as they are to be hygienically packing products in boxes for shipping.

Work Schedules

Most workers in this occupation work full time. Most workers will work shift assignments based on seniority. Like many workers in manufacturing, those in food processing occupations may work a shift that requires either early mornings or nights and evenings.

Injuries

Injury rates have improved greatly over the past decades, but injury and illness rates for slaughterers and meat packers are still significantly higher than those of most other manufacturing occupations. However, slaughterers and meat packers have the lowest illness and injury rates of all of the production workers in the food manufacturing industry. They work near dangerous equipment, such as knives and saws, perform strenuous activities, walk on slippery floors, and are exposed to animal waste.

How to Become a Slaughterer or Meat Packer About this section

Slaughterers and meat packers
Slaughteres and meat packers need hand-eye coordination for the timely and safe preparation of products.

Slaughterers and meat packers do not need formal education. They get on-the-job training. 

Training

Slaughterers and meat packers get on-the-job training. They are not expected to know the job before they start.

On-the-job training may last a few days or a few months, but slaughterers and meat packers often get more training every year. Generally, trainees begin by doing less difficult jobs, such as making simple cuts or removing bones. Trainees learn how to properly use and care for tools and equipment under the guidance of experienced workers.

Work Experience

Slaughterers and meat packers generally do not need previous work experience to qualify for entry level positions. However, having previously worked in a physically demanding occupation, such as one in construction, may improve an applicant’s chance of gaining employment.

Education

Formal education is not required for slaughterers and meat packers. However, education may help them advance into managerial and other positions with more responsibility. Slaughterers and meat packers must have basic reading and math skills because they use, calibrate, and manipulate machinery.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Slaughterers and meat packers must pay close attention to what they are doing to avoid injuring themselves and wasting products.

Coordination. Hand–eye coordination is needed for the timely and safe preparation of products.

Good eyesight. Slaughterers and meat packers must be able to see small portions of fat, bone, or cartilage to remove them.

Physical stamina. Slaughterers and meat packers must be able to stand and work on the production line for 8 or more hours during a shift.

Physical strength. Slaughterers and meat packers must be able to lift and move large portions of meat while working in the slaughtering yard or processing facility.

Teamwork. Slaughterers and meat packers must work as a team both in the yard and on the line to ensure that the operation runs smoothly. They are often closely supported by managerial staff.

Certification

Slaughterers and meat packers may be certified by an appropriate government agency to show that they know how to process meat hygienically.

Specialized workers, including butchers who follow religious guidelines for food preparation, may be required to go through a lengthy apprenticeship or certification process or both before becoming completely qualified and endorsed by their organization to do their duties.

Pay About this section

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

Median annual wages, May 2010

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

Production Occupations

$30,330

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

$23,380

 

The median annual wage of slaughterers and meat packers was $23,380 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,310, and the top 10 percent earned more than $31,790.

Most slaughterers and meat packers work full time. Most workers will work shift assignments based on seniority. Like many workers in manufacturing, slaughterers and meat packers may work a shift that requires either early mornings or nights and evenings.

Job Outlook About this section

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Total, All Occupations

14%

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

8%

Production Occupations

4%

 

Employment of slaughterers and meat packers is expected to grow by 8 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations. An expanding population and international trade will create demand for meat and related products.

As the meat-processing industry becomes more integrated, production processes are becoming more streamlined. The ability of processing facilities to employ slaughterers and meat packers should remain strong because of reduced costs in other areas of the industry.

Most food-manufacturing plants require slaughterers and meat packers to clean, salt, and cut beef quarters and large portions into tenders and chucks to prepare them for retail sale.

Retailers and grocers increasingly prefer prepackaged meat and poultry products because they can be easily displayed and sold without the need of a butcher.

A growing global population and increasing wealth among developing countries should cause demand for meat and poultry to increase worldwide. Compared to food products from other countries, U.S.-made food products are produced under very high quality and safety standards. As a result, exports of U.S. meat and poultry products face few extra quality and safety regulations when imported by other countries.

Job Prospects

The animal slaughtering and processing industry is continuing to consolidate. Most jobs are in areas where there are large processing facilities. The majority of large meat-packing plants are located in the Midwestern and High Plains regions of the country. The five states with the largest number of slaughterers and meat packers are Texas, North Carolina, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. Processing facilities tend to be in rural areas or near smaller cities.

Employment projections data for slaughterers and meat packers, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Slaughterers and Meat Packers

51-3023 89,100 96,500 8 7,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of slaughterers and meat packers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2010 MEDIAN PAY Help
Bakers

Bakers

Bakers mix and bake ingredients according to recipes to make a variety of breads, pastries, and other baked goods.

Less than high school $23,450
Chefs and head cooks

Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants or other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.

High school diploma or equivalent $40,630
Fishers and related fishing workers

Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

Fishers and related fishing workers catch and trap various types of marine life. The fish they catch are for human food, animal feed, bait, and other uses.

Less than high school $25,590
Food processing occupations

Food Processing Occupations

Food processing occupations include butchers and meat cutters; meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers; and operators and tenders of roasting, baking, and drying machinery. These workers cut, trim, or otherwise process food items, such as meat, or nonfood items, such as tobacco, for retail sale.

Less than high school $23,950
Food processing operators

Food Processing Operators

Food processing operators include food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators and tenders. These workers may set up, operate, and tend cooking equipment that mixes, blends, cooks, or otherwise processes ingredients used to manufacture food products.

High school diploma or equivalent $24,250
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Slaughterers and Meat Packers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/slaughterers-and-meat-packers.htm (visited March 27, 2015).

Publish Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012