GRAPHIC: Meat processing workers earn an average of $15.53 per hour, with state-level variation

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics shows meat processing workers were paid an average hourly wage of $15.53 in May 2020, its latest calculation. Workers experience higher illness and injury rates compared with other manufacturing jobs, but their average wage is lower than the average wage for all manufacturing employees, at $20.08 an hour. The 3,100 workers processing meat in Massachusetts earned the highest average hourly wage, $21.24, in the country. Louisiana, with just over 5,500 meat processing workers, had the lowest average hourly pay, at $11.89. California had nearly 40,000 such workers, the most in the country, and they received an average hourly rate of $16.76, the 14th largest in the nation. 

Data analysis: Data was pulled directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (selecting state data from https://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm).

OPINION: USDA just put meat packers on notice

The CEO's of all the major meat packers have just collectively set their hair on fire and are likely calling internal company meetings RIGHT NOW about how to handle the industry's greatest threat in, like, forever. That's because the United States Department of Agriculture  announced this month that it will attempt to significantly strengthen enforcement of the 100-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act that was originally written to stop meat packers from stealing from poultry,hog farmers and cattle ranchers with a bag of tricks that manipulated live stock prices through unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive practices. As written back in 1921:

Section 202 of the PSA (7 U.S.C. §§ 192 (a) and (e)) makes it unlawful for any packer who inspects livestock, meat products or livestock products to engage in or use any unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive practice or device, or engage in any course of business or do any act for the purpose or with the effect of manipulating or controlling prices or creating a monopoly in the buying, selling or dealing any article in restraint of commerce. But meat packers have had a century to go to the courts in order to chip away at straightforward protections. And chip away they did, finally hitting the mother load in 2004 in the landmark case Pickett v. Tyson Fresh Meats Inc.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled that to win Section 202 PSA case a meat producer or rancher had to prove a singular meat packer's buying practices reduced marketplace competition by arbitrarily lowering prices paid to sellers with the likely effect of increasing retail prices.

‘They think workers are like dogs.’ How pork plant execs sacrificed safety for profits.  

USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting spent five months piecing together the pivotal moments in the Triumph Foods outbreak, interviewing more than a dozen current and former workers and examining thousands of pages of government records.

Food supply issues

Back in March, the coronavirus started triggering infection hotspots in and around meatpacking plants, sickening and killing workers. As local public health authorities pushed giant meat conglomerates to close infected facilities, industry executives warned that doing so was “pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” as Kenneth M. Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, declared in a April 12 press release.