In 2008, the average American consumed nearly 500 calories of meat, eggs, and nuts daily. This equates to approximately seven ounces of ground chuck, twenty ounces of chicken tenders, or ten ounces of ground pork. Multiplied out by the population of the United States, some 313.9 million, this equates to the need for a dedicated army of workers ensuring that there is meat to be eaten.
Less than high school
All of this work is done under the watchful eye of the Food and Drug Administration, whose requirements are designed to keep the consumer safe from cross-contamination, products of poor quality, the addition of unsafe additives to products such as sausage or other ground meats, and other such hazards.
A high school diploma or GED is not required to work as a slaughterer and meat packer; however, it is always helpful to have one in tow. Training tends to be on-the-job in nature, making it particularly easy to stay relevant within the industry. In order to properly staircase workers, advancement is typically done in tandemwith the level of intricacy of the cuts to be made by that worker.
To that end, the rough cuts from large slabs of meat are more likely to be performed by new, young workers who still have strong backs, while the dangerous or finicky cuts are performed by grizzled veterans. In either case, the primary requirements for this industry are not booksmarts, but rather enough dexterity not to get cut by the saw and enough physical strength to heave about large slabs of meat on a conveyor.
Certain religions, particularly Islam and Judaism, have very specific rules regarding the proper slaughter and consumption of meat. To this end, entire sub-industries exist within the larger meat packing industry for the production of meat that follows the laws of these religions. Termed halal and kosher, respectively, their distribution channels are also completely different in order to service those who observe their respective religious laws.
Given the nature of halal and kosher meat, this specialization is either of absolutely no consequence or of extreme consequence depending on where a prospective slaughterer and meat packer wishes to work. It is recommended that research be done to see if either of these specializations is used within a facility before attempting to get a job at that particular facility.
Given much of the work of the slaughterer and meat packer can be performed by sufficiently advanced automation, the rate of growth for the industry is significantly less than the expected rate of growth for the population of the United States. Coming in at 4 to 8 percent, depending on specializations, those in the industry will find themselves increasingly called on to do the finer cuts that automaton has trouble performing.
In this way, though there will be fewer new jobs created, the job itself will become significantly less physically demanding for those who enter the industry in the near future. Given the average pay is $23,380 annually, while the top ten percent make $31,790, those who enter into this profession should not expect a great deal of upward mobility, but can expect relatively good job security.