What is a Meat Packing Plant?

Harriette Halepis

Within the United States, and in some other countries, a meat packing plant refers to a facility that packages animal meat for human consumption. In New Zealand, the same type of facility is called a freezing works. Contrary to popular belief, animals are not slaughtered at a meat packing plant. This facility solely exists to package and export meat.

Various cuts of meat.
Various cuts of meat.

Sheep, cattle, pigs, and other types of livestock are killed at an abattoir -- a warehouse-type building that can also be called a slaughterhouse. The entire meat packing industry has been in existence since the time of the first railroad. The invention of the railroad allowed farmers to send their livestock to any slaughterhouse within a few days.

A meat packing plant.
A meat packing plant.

Likewise, a meat packing plant was able to receive and distribute meat across a country with the help of the refrigerated railroad car. Within the United States, conditions inside of the average meat packing plant during the 1900s were extremely dangerous, which prompted author Upton Sinclair to write the classic book The Jungle. Many years later, during the 1930s and 1940s, workers were able to unite and form the United Packinghouse Workers of America. Even though meat packing plant conditions have improved within the United States, modern technology has made this occupation just as dangerous as it ever was. Human rights activists frequently protest the work atmosphere within packing plants stating that production has taken precedence over safety.

A special halal meat packing plant is needed to produce meat prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
A special halal meat packing plant is needed to produce meat prepared in accordance with Islamic law.

A kosher meat, meat consumed by those of the Jewish faith, packing plant is a bit different from a regular packing plant. According to Jewish law, animals must be killed by one single cut to the throat area. This method allows an animal's blood to drain slowly. Trained individuals perform the cutting of kosher animals, though any cuts that are too shallow, or are marred in any way, constitute meat that is non-kosher. In this case, the meat is then sold to people who are not of the Jewish faith.

Similarly, halal meat, meat consumed by those of the Islamic faith, is killed in a different type of packing plant. Halal meat must also be killed by cutting an animal's jugular veins. There are many commonalities between kosher meat and halal meat, though whether the two types of meat can be interchanged is debatable. While neither Muslim or Jewish people can consume pork according to the rules of their religion, amongst other types of meat, pork meat is the most popular kind of meat worldwide, though beef comes in a close second.

After beef cattle are slaughtered, the resulting meat is sent to a packing plant.
After beef cattle are slaughtered, the resulting meat is sent to a packing plant.

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Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - I'm sure there are some meat packers in the country which use ethical processes and are aware of human rights. And there are definitely places where you can get organic and unprocessed meat.

I don't like it when people boycott an industry altogether, because they end up harming the people they are trying to help. It's best to find the companies that are doing things the right way and reward them. I'm sure there are websites that track which companies are better than others and I would look them up.


@MrsPramm - I also get my meat from local hunters. I prefer deer and rabbit meat to beef and pork anyway, and at least I have a good idea what's in the food I'm eating. I've heard too many horror stories about what passes for meat these days in the supermarket. It seems like the meat packing plants use more chemicals than a plastics factory.


It is truly appalling the conditions that affect the workers of meat packing plants and the worst part is that they often hire illegal immigrants so that they can't complain about the conditions.

It's not unusual for people to lose fingers or even hands in the machinery, which is run down and not properly vetted for safety.

On top of that, the sanitary conditions are often terrible and often the contents of the animal's digestive system ends up all over the meat. They then bleach the meat to make it "safe" for consumption and never mind the people who have to handle the chemicals there either.

I try very hard not to buy meat from a beef packing plant. I get it from local butchers or from farmers whenever I can. Not only is that more ethically sound, it also supports local businesses.

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