How to Become a Meat Packer

The meat packing industry involves the slaughtering, processing, and packaging of a variety of meat from animals to distribute to many different retailers for human consumption. Meat packers are trained workers that perform a variety of meat packing tasks.

What does a meat packer do?

Meat packers perform a variety of tasks to prepare many different types of meat from cows, hogs, sheep, and other animals. They receive and store meat products, trim and prepare cuts of meat, fulfill customer orders, and operate many different processing machines. They pack meat into correctly labeled boxes and packages and prepare the meat for shipping and transportation. Often times, meat packers work on assembly lines where one worker is responsible for specific tasks. Meat packers use a variety of tools such as knives, meat saws, trimmers, band saws, and cleavers. They usually work in commercial meat processing plants and some work for private slaughterhouses.

What kind of training does a meat packer need?

There are no formal education requirements for meat packers, but most employers prefer applicants with at least a high school diploma. Some meat packers complete formal training at trade or vocational and technical schools. Most meat packers learn their skills through on the job training. New meat packers observe and work with experienced workers to learn the requirements of the job. New meat packers usually start out performing simple tasks and move on to more complicated duties as they gain the necessary skills and experience. They learn the proper and safe use of a variety of tools and equipment and the expectations and procedures of the employer. Most meat packing employers require meat packers to complete safety seminars and additional training regarding food safety. Meat packers complete additional training as needed throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a meat packer?

Employment of meat packers is expected to grow more slowly than average for all professions, increasing 4% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increased demand for processed meat will create some job growth.

Job prospects should be good especially for meat packers employed by processing plants. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace meat packers that leave the profession.

How much do meat packers make?

As of February 2010, the average annual salary for meat packers is $40,000; average annual meat packer salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a meat packer is a great choice for people with a strong interest in preparing many different types of meat for consumption purposes. Meat packers must have a solid understanding of the policies and procedures regarding the packaging of meat. Mechanical ability, detail orientation, manual dexterity, and good eye-hand coordination are essential characteristics. Meat packers must be able to handle repetitive and often less desirable tasks. They also need good physical strength to lift and carry heavy pieces of meat.

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