Jobs in the Food Processing Industry: Career Facts

Food processing workers produce baked goods and transform raw foods into marketable products that can be purchased in restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores. Explore your job options in the food processing industry, and check the training and certification requirements for these positions. Review the typical salary for food processing workers. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Worker in the Food Processing Industry Do?

There are a variety of jobs available in the food processing industry, and tasks vary by job title. For instance, bakers follow recipes to produce baked goods like bread, cakes, cookies and pies. Meat trimmers prepare cuts of beef, poultry and seafood for customers. Butchers also cut and wrap meat products, while meat cutters process meat in industrial settings. Food batchmakers are involved in the bulk production of many food items, including candy and cheese. Below, the table provides some detailed information about careers in this industry:

Butchers & Meat CuttersMeat, Poultry and Fish Cutters & TrimmersFood BatchmakersBakers
Degree Required Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot required, vocational training available
Key Responsibilities Use tools to cut meats according to a customer's specificationsTrim, debone, slice and package various meats, poultry and fish to prepare for packagingOperate equipment to mix various food productsBake pastries, cakes, pies and breads
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5%3% (for all food processing workers3% (for all food processing workers) 7%
Mean Salary (2015)* $30,940$24,810$29,210$26,270

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Some Jobs in the Food Processing Industry?

Some food processing employees work in meat processing plants where they cut and package large animal carcasses. Other occupations in the food processing industry include butchers, food batchmakers, poultry cutters, meat and fish cutters and bakers. Butchers generally work in wholesale companies or food markets. They use power cutters and knives to slice meat into smaller pieces.

A food batchmaker operates food manufacturing equipment that mixes products such as cheese and candy. Poultry cutters are responsible for trimming, deboning, and sometimes packaging turkeys and chickens. Meat and fish cutters fillet and slice meat and fish into smaller portions. They might also add seasonings, breading and marinades. The food processing industry also includes bakers, who often work in commercial bakeries. They produce products such as pastries, cakes, pies and breads.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Jobs in the food processing industry don't typically require a degree since most education is gained on the job. Bakers, however, must be highly skilled and adhere to health regulations. Some bakers learn their job skills through apprenticeships in stores or craft bakeries. Others pursue baking certificates and study courses such as icing artistry, advanced pastry arts, artisan bread, purchasing, cake decorating and safety and sanitation.

Butchers and other food processing employees usually receive on-the-job training or take part in apprenticeships. Training can take from one to two years and may entail removing bones and cutting meat. Trainees learn skills such as splitting animal carcasses and making sausage products.

Are There Certification Opportunities?

Bakers can become certified, if they wish, through the Retail Bakers of America. The organization offers certification at four different tiers. There are variable training and experience prerequisites, depending upon the certification level. There are no certification opportunities for most other food processing jobs.

What Are the Mean Salaries?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that butchers and meat cutters who were employed by grocery stores earned average annual salaries of about $30,760 in 2015 ( Meat, poultry and fish cutters who worked in the grocery wholesaling industry earned approximately $25,560 annually. Food batchmakers in the dairy manufacturing industry were paid $33,810, and bakers in the bakery industry earned an average of $26,480. The BLS also reported that a large number of food processing employees belonged to unions such as the Commercial Workers International Union and had pension plans and other benefits.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of a career in food processing, you might be interested in a job in food service. For instance, as a waiter or waitress you could work in a restaurant setting where you would take people's order, recommend menu items, carry food to the table and clean up after patrons have left. No formal education is required for this position. Another possible restaurant job is a position as a cook. In this job, you would prepare food that has already been processed, cooking it to perfection and arranging it on a plate in order to appeal to customers. Although cooks do not need to have a degree, they can improve their skills by completing a culinary arts training program.

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