Graveyard Shift
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Slaughterhouse Workers Describe What Happens On The Killing Floor

Updated April 4, 2018 105.1k views13 items

Have you ever wondered what it's really like to work in a slaughterhouse? Well, according to these slaughterhouse-worker accounts on Reddit, it's about as gory as you imagine. The workers have to kill and process animals all day long - and, despite PETA's videos - most of this process is as humane as it can be.

Read on to hear what slaughterhouse workers really have to say, and perhaps get a new perspective on what goes into the food many people eat every day. 

  • Sometimes Cows Are Butchered Alive

    Captive bolt guns do not kill cows. They stun them, if they're used correctly, most of the time.

    Yes, they're cut open while alive, and the bolt guns don't function perfectly every time. From time to time they either wake up after stunning or they just aren't fully stunned to begin with. Not that I think the exact conditions under which an animal's life is taken from them are particularly important, but it's certainly not the painless, merciful process the people in animal agriculture want you to believe. Just like any business, their objective is profit, which means getting the maximum number of animals through the production line in any given timespan. How much pain and distress the animal experiences in the process is not a concern: the stunning is to make it possible to hoist the cow, not to keep them from experiencing pain.

  • Killed Cattle With A Metal Rod

    I worked in a packing house for a few years in the mid-80s, going through three different departments as a new worker, then moved to the clean up crew working nights cleaning the place.

    When the cattle came into the plant, they were shot with a special type of gun that used a retractable rod, as opposed to a bullet.(No need to dig for the bullet.) They died instantly, then were hung up by their hind legs, were bled out and cut up. The whole process from live animal to hanging sides of beef in a cooler was probably less than a half-hour per animal.

    The entire process and the whole place was under the watchful eye of USDA inspectors. They were very thorough. I was never afraid to eat the meat, and after the nightly cleaning, it was probably cleaner than my kitchen is today.

    One issue is the deregulation that took place in the late '80s. The way the inspectors did their job was changed, and they lost some power to reject beef. I am convinced the stories we now hear about E coli and other tainted food is a direct result of that deregulation.

    The inspectors used to drive us nuts with how picky they were, but the food was safe and the place was clean.

  • Stressed Animals Give You Tough Meat

    I work for a meat company that owns and/or operates slaughterhouses and boning halls all over the UK as well as retail-packing and food-service processing facilities to deliver these products to the end consumer. This is mostly for beef and lamb production.

    I have personally worked in the largest lamb slaughterhouse in NZ for six months, and go to production sites all over the UK each week.

    The guys working in the kill box just treat it as a job. Slaughtering cattle/lamb is no different to them than any other repetitive manual task that has to be performed inside the factory. There is a skill set required to do the job of stunning and slaughtering the animal, much as there is for boning or trimming the subsequent primals (chunks of meat) that are derived from the animal.

    Any facility that wants to supply mainstream retailers or food service sectors in the UK have to adhere to strict guidelines for animal welfare. This includes a whole host of items that are completely impractical from an animal welfare standpoint in practice, but which are still enforced on the plants. Failure to comply with these standards, which are regularly audited would result in the site being shut down.

    Also, animal welfare directly effects the quality of the meat being produced. A stressed animal will produce dark, tough meat due to hormones released when the animal is stressed/anxious. Occasionally this occurs naturally, and the meat is removed from the line as the end customer will reject the product at the packaging stage/depot/in store. It is in the abattoirs' interest to slaughter the animals in the most humane, stress-free way possible.

  • Remove Pig's Hair In A Tumbling Machine

    We put the pigs into a pot of hot water for half a minute, then we put them into a machine that tumbles them around and that gets the majority of the hair off. Then it's a case of burning and shaving the rest of the hair off.