Agricultural and Food Products Processing

If you like the idea of concocting a new flavor of ice cream or producing healthy food products in an efficient manner, a career in agricultural and food products processing could be a good fit for you. Read on to learn more about the education and employment options associated with this unique field.

Is Agricultural and Food Products Processing for Me?

Career Overview

Agricultural and food products processing workers transform raw farm products into the foods we eat at home and buy at supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries. Your job options include baker, slaughterer, butcher and food batchmaker. Food scientists often work in the food processing industry.

Job Duties

As a baker, you'll blend and cook ingredients to create breads, cakes, rolls and pastries, usually for a large commercial bakery, small pastry shop, grocery store or restaurant. Slaughterers and meat packers can typically be found at slaughterhouses, meat processing plants and wholesalers. In this position, your duties could include slaughtering livestock and slicing carcasses into large cuts of meat for wholesale. Some slaughterers and meat packers also prepare smaller meat cuts and grounds for grocery stores, a task also performed by butchers.

Butchers and meat cutters typically work at stores or wholesalers that sell to restaurants. As a butcher, you'll slice meat into consumer-proportioned cuts like steaks or roasts, display meat in cases and fill orders for shoppers. Food batchmakers follow recipes and use machinery to blend and cook ingredients for manufactured food products at production facilities.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment of bakers, butchers and meat cutters would grow by a slower-than-average rate nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Opportunities for food batchmakers, as well as slaughterers and meat packers, were expected to decrease through 2022. During the same period, food scientists can look forward to an average increase of 11% in jobs nationwide.

As reported by the BLS in May 2013, the median annual wage for bakers was $23,160, while food batchmakers earned $26,560. In the same month, slaughterers and meat packers had median annual incomes of $24,980, while butchers and meat cutters made $28,360. As of May 2013, food scientists earned a median annual salary of $59,630 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Agricultural and Food Products Processing?

Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

A high school diploma or prior experience in the field is not required for an entry-level job as a meat cutter or packer, baker, butcher or slaughterer. If you're interested in working as a food batchmaker, you'll need a high school diploma or GED and less than a year of related work experience. Most bakers learn their trade through on-the-job training or an apprenticeship program; many apprentice bakers also earn a baking certificate. Meat cutters and packers, butchers and slaughterers also acquire their skills on the job; food batchmaking workers pursue apprenticeships or train on site.

Certificate and Degree Programs

Although not required for most jobs in agricultural and food products processing, some colleges offer certificate and associate's degree programs in meat processing and food safety. Bachelor's degree programs in food processing and technology may also be available and might lead to a position as a manager or technician. In general, you'll learn about the roles of food science and technology in producing and distributing food. Food processing courses can be found within some undergraduate programs in animal science; master's degree programs in animal science may allow for an emphasis on meat science.

As an aspiring food scientist, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree to get hired. Both undergraduate and graduate food science programs can be found at colleges and universities and may include an emphasis on food processing. Once enrolled, you'll learn how to use nutrition and science to devise better food processing methods, improve food quality or even design new food products. Coursework may include topics in food chemistry and engineering, preservation and sanitation. Upon graduating, you might qualify for a job as a plant operations or quality control manager, new product developer or researcher.

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