A poultry plant is a facility where poultry are processed from slaughter to packaging for sale. Poultry are generally defined as domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. Poultry plants vary in size and scope, and some offer specialty services such as kosher butchering. Most are located in centralized areas with access to train and trucking lines which facilitate rapid transport of live birds and packaged meats, and some are attached directly to poultry farms.
At a poultry plant, live birds are slaughtered and processed to remove entrails and feathers so that they can be butchered for sale. Whole birds are often sold as-is, and the poultry plant can also provide processing for poultry parts such as legs, thighs, and wings. Scrap materials which are not prepared for sale are sent to rendering facilities, while the finished processed meat can be shipped in bulk to wholesalers, or packaged for shipment to grocery stores.
Specialty services which may be offered by a poultry plant can include kosher and halal meat processing, organic meat processing, and humane slaughter facilities. Meat from such plants tends to be more expensive, reflecting the increased care which must be taken in processing, and such plants can also be subject to more rigorous inspection. Government inspectors in these cases are concerned not just with food safety, but with evidence that the plant is conforming with regulations which allow it to sell meats labeled as humane, kosher, or organic.
Large scale poultry farms may have an attached processing plant to streamline their business operations. Not having to truck live birds cuts down on production costs, including costs associated with losing birds in transit. Smaller scale farms may not want to run a processing plant, or may be part of a cooperative which pools resources to fund a centralized plant which handles birds from multiple farms. Very small farms may make arrangements for mobile poultry processing, in which a slaughter truck comes to the farm to handle slaughtering and processing.
Numerous workers are required for poultry plants to handle various stages of the operation. The work tends to be difficult, loud, and dirty, and rates of compensation are usually fairly low because the labor is primarily unskilled. Working in a poultry plant also comes with a number of occupational hazards, thanks to the heavy equipment which is utilized in poultry processing. Plant workers can lose extremities to blades, conveyer belts, and other equipment, and they are also at risk of burns from scalding tanks used to remove feathers.