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June 1994, Vol. 117, No. 6
Ron L. Hetrick
D uring times when most manufacturing industries have experienced restructuring, technical innovations, and job loss, poultry slaughtering and processing plants experienced vigorous growth in employment.1 This surge reflected consumer's unprecedented shift from red meat to what was believed to be the healthiest of the meat products-poultry.
This article explores the reasons behind employment growth in poultry slaughtering and processing plants and offers some explanation for its vitality. Further, it demonstrates how this somewhat minor segment has kept employment levels relatively stable in the entire food products industry.
Poultry slaughtering and processing plants make up one of three subcomponents of the meat products industry. The other two are meatpacking plants, which engage in the slaughtering of cattle, hogs, sheep, lambs, and calves for immediate use; and sausages and other prepared meats, which include establishments that purchase carcasses mainly to process into various prepared meat products. For the purpose of comparison in this article, these two industries are combined and referred to as red meat.
Comparative payroll employment data between red meat and poultry began in 1972. Poultry employment increased by 2 percent from 1972 to 1979, and subsequently jumped to a 4-percent annual growth rate from 1980 to 1992 for a total 96-percent increase over the period. This contrasts with employment in red meat, which had no growth during the entire period, because mechanization increased productivity at the time of very little growth in output. These trends in red meat employment closely mimicked what was occurring in the overall food industry, which lost jobs at an annual rate of 0.4 percent throughout the eighties because of widespread mechanization and technological improvements. In this context, the strong gains in the poultry industry during the 1980-92 period are worthy of note.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 1994 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Before 1987, SIC 2015, poultry slaughtering and processing plants, was previously split into two other SIC's: poultry dressing plants, SIC 2016, and poultry and egg processing, SIC 2017.
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