What’s it all about then?
As an abattoir worker you’ll be part of a team responsible for managing the livestock slaughtering process and preparing the meat for sale.
This is an important and responsible job and you must absolutely ensure that all of the animals that you work with are treated and processed humanely.
What might I be doing?
Your work will vary from one company to another but is likely to include the following:
- Ensuring that all animals are effectively controlled on arrival at the abattoir
- Stunning the animals using specialist equipment and techniques
- Killing the animals humanely, in an efficient manner that minimises pain
- Ensuring that animal welfare is at all times maintained and taking care to ensure that animals do not suffer
- Preparing the carcasses for sale, ensuring the meat is not spoiled
- Packing the meat in separate cartons and packaging
- Cleaning all surfaces and equipment after use
- Reporting any potential problems to supervisory staff and onsite meat hygiene inspectors
- Keeping abreast of all food safety and hygiene rules
- Following strict procedures at all times
What will be expected of me?
You’ll be expected to work as an effective part of a team as dealing with large animals who may be distressed can be extremely dangerous.
As you might expect, you’re going to have to be physically fit for any job in an abattoir.
You’ll be expected to demonstrate high levels of animal welfare in this job.
There is a lot of machinery in an abattoir so you’ll be expected to be able to operate this although full training is given so that you can work safely at all times.
For obvious reasons one of the most important things expected of you is that you will not suffer any distress when dealing with animal carcasses – this is not a place for squeamish people!
What can I expect?
Typically you’ll be working 40 hours per week, with extra hours overtime should the need arise.
Conditions inside the abattoir may be messy, smelly and cold at times and you will be provided with suitable warm and protective clothing for your work.
High standards of hygiene are maintained at all times so that no problems arise with any of the product for which you’re responsible.
You’ll also be surprised at how clean the place is kept!
What about the pay?
As a trainee you’ll earn somewhere just over the minimum wage but this will rise as you gain experience in your role and become more effective.
You may also work for a company that pays a bonus.
Obviously these rates change with time so ensure you know all the details prior to taking on this sort of work.
Average rates start around £12,000 rising to around £18,000 with skills and experience.
Note these figures are only intended as a rough guideline.
What qualifications do I need to get in?
You don’t need any formal qualifications to commence training as an abattoir operative but this doesn’t mean that some employers will ask for GCSE passes as a minimum.
With more qualifications under your belt when you commence employment you are much more likely to achieve promotions and pay rises.
You could consider an apprenticeship so you’ll be learning and earning at the same time.
Legally you must be over the age of 18 to slaughter animals.
Where would I get these qualifications?
Apprenticeships are offered via FE colleges and your local meat firms and you should check with your local jobs and employment office for more details.
What about further training?
Most of the training will be provided at your induction and then on the job and you will likely gain most expertise by learning from your more experienced colleagues.
If you are undertaking an apprenticeship you will spend most of your time learning on the job, but also some time in the classroom studying a number of useful topics which all help to make you a better worker.
Animal Welfare courses are also offered and there are a number of providers of this type of specialist training.
The more qualifications you can get the better your chances are of promotion to team leader or supervisor – this means you should consider taking some courses in business and management either via your employer or in your own time at the local FE College or using distance learning.
Anything else I might need to know?
Yes, there are lots of different roles within the abattoir both before and after the actual slaughtering process.
So, you could be involved with a number of different processes, depending on the type of abattoir in which you’re employed.
Many abattoirs are large and specialise in a particular kind of animal.