Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers are all part of a job family within the Strong Interest Inventory Careers (SII) Realistic Theme Code Category. Since its initial release in 1927, the SII has helped tens of thousands of individuals identify careers that may be a good fit for their preferences, strengths, and proclivities. Realistic careers may involve an activity that is physical, and which requires solving specific problems. By extension, people who are drawn to Realistic careers are typically practically inclined individuals who are fulfilled when they produce a tangible product or beneficial service that is useful in the real world.

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Meat Processors, as well as professionals in similar positions (e.g., Fish Processors, Meat Cutters, Breast Trimmers, etc.) have several different responsibilities. They may need to inspect products delivered from suppliers to ensure that they are high quality and free of defects, rot, bruises, and other damage that may impact quality and resale value. Once a delivery is accepted, Meat Processors may need to use equipment, such as knives, saws, or shears, to clean, slice, trim, and section animal carcasses. Depending on the nature of the delivery, this may involve removing inedible parts, such as skin, feathers, or bones from the meat, using a bandsaw to section an entire carcass, or carving portions from a primal, such as carving individual steaks from a rib primal. Once the meat is cut and trimmed for packing, they weigh the portions as well as label and package them appropriately. In some cases, Meat Processors may prepare processed foods such as ground meat, sausages, hotdogs, lunch meat, or other “grab-and-go” or “ready-to-heat” foods for deli or grocery store sale. Additional products may include added vegetables, sauces, or breading.

Because of the highly physical nature of this career, Meat Processors need to be comfortable using a broad range of machinery and tools typically found in processing plants and commercial kitchens. These may include but are not limited to conveyor belts, scales, forklifts, jacks, and hoists, as well as commercial cutlery (e.g., boning knives, cleavers, tenderizing tools); large refrigerators or freezers; commercial food grinders, dicers, and sausage fillers; and wrapping machines. If necessary. Meat Processors may also need to be familiar with commercial cleaning materials and tools.

Successful Meat Processors must have a foundational understanding of how to use, handle, and manage raw materials, including how they are produced and why, how to assess and manage quality, how to control costs, and other considerations for processing and distributing meat and animal products. In addition, they must be familiar with food production and associated public safety guidelines. Those involved with weighing or packaging products should understand basic mathematics, such as how many ounces are in a “quarter pound,” as well as other forms of arithmetic and algebra or geometry as applies to their job. Those in leadership positions may need to have certain expertise in administration and management as well. Additional areas of expertise depend on the specific job roles and responsibilities, and may include knowledge of transportation, mechanics, education, training, and other areas of specialization.

Because this is a highly physical career, Meat Processors must have strong hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, vision, and steadiness. Since they often work in large teams as well as with the general public, they must also be able to communicate clearly and calmly, make intelligent and timely decisions, and listen to, evaluate, and meet others’ needs.

Most Meat Processors learn their trade through on-the job training and real-life hands-on experience after they complete their educations. Most Meat Processor positions encourage but do not require a high school diploma or higher education credential.

In the United States, the median salary for Meat Processors is $30,190 annually, which come to about $14.51 per hour. That said, there is some variation in parts of the country. For example, the median salary in California, Texas, and North Dakota are slightly higher than the national average ($31,000-$33,000 annually), while the median in Louisiana is lower, ($22,000 annually). As of 2020, there were about 153,000 Meat Processors employed across the United States. However, growth in the industry is slower than average, with just 18,400 additional job openings projected nationwide. Even in states significantly above the national average, like Arizona, which has a projected growth rate of 23%, this percentage translates to an estimated sixty jobs.

Below find employment trends for Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers:

  • Median Salary: $30,190 annually
  • Employment: 153,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2020-2030): Slower than average (1% to 5%)
  • Projected job openings (2020-2030): 18,400
[Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data employment projections]

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2012-2022 employment projections