meat packing is considered dirty, physically demanding work - anybody tried solving that?

let’s say if the smell is bad, let workers wear filters. If lots of blood all over the place, let them wear protective clothing that can, inter alia, be quickly washed using a shower like device to look prettier. If cutting a carcass with an ax requires great upper body strength, replace the axe with some specialized power tool that requires learned dexterity but not strength.

Have such approaches been tried and failed? Or nobody cares as long as salaries are low? Or even with all this sort of innovations it’s still a hard and lousy type of work?

Admittedly I haven’t ever been to a slaughter house, but according to my Grandma, who grew up in a town that housed several, if you went on a tour, the places were immaculate. It’s like a kitchen, where everything is built to be quickly and thoroughly cleanable, and is indeed getting scrubbed off regularly throughout the day. This would have been 40-50 years ago, so I can’t imagine that the quality has gone down.

I’d expect that buying filters, washable protective clothing, shower-like devices, and specialized power tools would raise the operating costs of a meat-packing plant substantially, and thus raise the cost of meat to the consumer. There might be a small market for “fair trade” meat, where the workers have better working conditions, but I can’t imagine it being any more than a niche market. For better or worse, meat is a mass-market item in much of the Western world, and the winning business strategy for mass-market products is usually to cut costs as much as you can, operate with a small per-unit profit margin, and make your profits via volume.

In recent years a lot of that work has been done by illegals so I don’t think the pay is good. There have been crackdowns on some plants by the immigration cops in the past few years so there are more Americans doing that work now.

Here are some pictures from real slaughterhouses:

As you can see, they’re just big factories. The labor is probably not particularly different from building cars or making marzipan.

There’s a difference between a slaughterhouse and a meat packing plant. I’ve worked in the latter and toured the former.

The USDA maintains offices in plants and slaughterhouses in the USA. Inspectors are always on the floor. One shift daily is totally devoted to sanitation (taking everything apart and cleaning with hot water and bleach, then fumigated) as well as the ongoing cleaning during production hours. If inspection criteria are not met, production is immediately halted (by the USDA) until it is.

As far as the physicality of the work goes, some parts are more physical than others. In slaughterhouses, specialty saws and equipment are used, but some positions on the line require more strength than others, similar to manufacturing. In processing and packing, there are jobs in production that require less physical involvement than your average convenience store clerk, similar, again, to manufacturing.

In recent years, immigrant labor (both legal and illegal) has become the industry standard with the demand for cheaper product. The plant that I worked for was union and paid top scale for the industry. When we closed, it was to open a plant two hundred miles away with labor costs of 50%.

Not your typical office job, but not everybody does your typical office job.

The book “Fast Food Nation” is an excellent source of the slaugtherhouse controversy. It’s pretty fairly covered. In the book author Eric Schlessinger explains how the current industry came about and what substains it

In the early nineties, I worked at MIRINZ, a research institute in NZ that researched technology for the meat industry. We had a large engineering team that was working on mechanised cutting and boning equipment, and some guys in the electronics dept working with machine vision for cut recognition. They had lots of really cool stuff - CAD workstations, finite element modelling, the whole works.

After a few years, the govt changed, and the new govt completely changed the employment situation, reducing the power of the unions and the cost of labour. Without that incentive, the meat companies stopped funding the mechanised boning equipment, and staff in the engineering section were laid off. I am guessing that the economic/labour cost tradeoff has not changed much since then.


I worked with a company that designed and sold automation equipment into the meatpacking industry in the 70’s, and they did quite a lot of this kind of thing. There were many fancy and large systems that were particular to the industry, and lots of automation. Some things were still plenty ugly - the guy who spent all day jamming his thumb into hog anuses, carving around it with a knife, pulling it out like Little Jack Horner and slinging it down a special chute, remains iconic in my mind to this day. It keeps changing what it’s a metaphor for, but there’s always something.

On the down side, these factories were always cold and wet and uncomfortable. Keeping a place refrigerated and yet steam cleaning it once every 24 hours doesn’t do much for warm and fuzzy.

A good number of the workers get injured due to doing the same exact thing over and over - they get repetitive motion injuries.

and that happens in most industries, not just slaughter/meat packaging.

I saw a documentary (can’t remember which one) that talked about the fact that some modern improvements have been the introduction of the bandsaw, as well as chain-mail like gloves.

I know it happens other places but I believe I read that meat packing has one of the highest repetitive motion injury rates.

As far as the smell goes well, you get used to that.

I worked in packing plant in the 80’s that took the pigs from pen to pimento loaf.

I got used to the environment, but the danger of bodily harm was always there. I tried to avoid the assembly line work, because that was where I got careless out of sheer boredom.

There are lots of sharp things in packing houses. I have a few scars, I know people that have lost fingers and even one guy that lost his head…in an elevator accident.

Shut them down! The whole concept of slaughtering terrified innocent beings filters down to the core of our culture like manure runs down stream.

Regarding this “humane slaughter” myth that our culture is so enamoured by -


Nothing “humane” happens in the bowels of a kill floor.

“Humane” means to be concerned with the alleviation of suffering. These beings are not ill, maimed or otherwise “unhealthy”. They are not in an aging pain. They are delivered “fit for living”, so there is no “suffering to alleviate”. Nor do they go willfully to be extinguished. They are physically forced to their early, unhappy and unjust end. They are being slashed from this earth by a perpetual machine that must be fed… This machine is run by a conning, yet intellectually lazy culture that says to so is “necessary”. And to do so for profit is even better…

Do we ever care to question the emotional and psychological toll it takes on these desperate workers who task at the kill floor? Charged with the job of snuffing the lives of thousands of helpless beings; These employees as expected, have high rates of depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide. Is it any wonder why our culture is the violent one it is? Our very sustenance is rooted in the exploitation of human and nonhuman alike.

Is this an occupation that enriches one’s life? Or community values? Or do we again as consumers, turn a blind eye to the distasteful side of “meat”?

There are 2 kinds of people that work in a slaughterhouse: those who don’t want, and those who enjoy their jobs… Isn’t this a recipe for disaster for the lives being snuffed???

A veteran USDA meat inspector from Texas describes what he has seen: “Cattle dragged and choked… knocking 'em four, five, ten times. Every now and then when they’re stunned they come back to life, and they’re up there agonizing. They’re supposed to be re-stunned but sometimes they aren’t and they’ll go through the skinning process alive. I’ve worked in four large [slaughterhouses] and a bunch of small ones. They’re all the same. If people were to see this, they’d probably feel really bad about it. But in a packing house everybody gets so used to it that it doesn’t mean anything.” ~Slaughterhouse 1997

The meat industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars lying to the public about their product. But no amount of false propaganda can sanitize meat. The facts are absolutely clear: Eating meat is bad for human health, catastrophic for the
environment, and a living nightmare for animals.
Want to create a better world? Eat like you mean it - Go Vegan

Oh, boy. A vegan. Have we ever had one of them before?

I, for one, try to eat only aged beef.

5 to 14 day dry-aged beef. Medium rare, if you please, with bleu cheese crumbles.

Don’t let the name throw you. It’s not really a floor, it’s more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through so it can be collected and exported. :wink:

I was just reading The End of Food by Paul Roberts. Roberts has an ageneda but he does present some interesting facts about the food industry. One if that meat producers run on an incredibly narrow margin. So a very small increase in cost can push them into bankruptcy.

One other thing he wrote was that meat packers work like assembly lines - or I guess in this case disassembly lines. The carcasses will be carried around on conveyors and a worker will just make the same cut to animal after animal all day long. I can believe repetitive motion injuries must be common.

Small butchers are great places to work. Big factories (slaughter/meatpacking), not so much. They’re not different than any other factory job, though. In general they smell fine (unless you actually think blood and freshly killed animals smell ‘bad’, in which case I think you’re nuts) and are kept very clean. It’s a very finely tuned production process with specialized equipment to save as much human labor as possible.