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What Food Processing Occupations Do

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.


Butchers and meat cutters typically do the following:

Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers typically do the following:

Roasting, baking, and drying machinery operators and tenders typically do the following:

Butchers and meat cutters cut and trim meat from larger, wholesale portions into steaks, chops, roasts, and other cuts that shoppers want.

Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers produce ready-to-eat, partially cooked, easy-to-prepare, and display-ready packages of meat, poultry, and fish products at processing plants, ultimately for sale in grocery and specialty food stores. This often involves filleting meat, poultry or fish; cutting it into bite-sized pieces; and adding vegetables, sauces, flavorings, or breading.

Fish cutters and trimmers remove non-edible parts and then cut the fish into steaks or fillets. In retail stores, these workers also may wait on customers and clean fish to order. Some processing is done aboard ships, where fish are caught, processed, and flash frozen to preserve freshness.

Roasting, baking, and drying machinery operators and tenders work primarily in animal processing plants but also roast, bake, or dry other food and nonfood products, such as tortillas, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, coffee beans, and tobacco products. They use equipment such as hearth ovens, kiln driers, roasters, char kilns, and vacuum dryers in their work.

The following are examples of types of food processing occupations:

Meat carvers have special skills that enhance the final presentation of meats.

Poultry eviscerators clean birds so that they can be made into various products.

Fish filleters use sharp knives and precise movements to separate fillets of fish from the bones.

Oyster shuckers and shrimp pickers separate the flesh of oysters and shrimp from the shells or exoskeleton for packaging and wholesale or retail sale.

Meat roasters, dryers, and fish smokers operate large commercial roasters, dryers, or smokers to prepare fish and other meats for packaging and sale in wholesale or retail outlets.

Commercial bakers and tortilla makers operate large mixing and baking machines to produce large quantities of baked goods, such as bread or tortillas.

Coffee roasters follow or create recipes to produce standard or specialty coffees.

Tobacco roasters cure tobacco for wholesale distribution to cigarette manufacturers and other makers of tobacco products.

Dryers of fruits and vegetables operate machines that produce raisins or other dehydrated foods.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition