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Food Processing Occupations Job Description, Career as a Food Processing Occupations, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: On-the-job training
Salary: Median- $22, 701 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair

Modern food processing industries use a variety of techniques to preserve food, maintain its consistency, facilitate its availability throughout the year, and also improve flavor. In addition, marketing and distribution of food is made much easier by food processing.

The industry is vast and extremely diverse, and includes different categories of workers. These skilled people are responsible for processing raw food into finished products that can be marketed by independent grocers and wholesalers as well as institutional food services.

Meat and fish cutters and trimmers work in animal slaughtering plants. They may cut and trim whole beef, pork, poultry, and fish, or process fabricated meat products like sausages and hamburgers. In contrast, bakers produce breads, pastries and other baked goods by mixing and baking different ingredients according to specific recipes. They are mostly employed by specialty and grocery stores, as well as manufacturing firms.

The food processing industries also employ food batchmakers. These workers are responsible for setting up and operating equipments that are used for mixing, blending, and cooking various ingredients. Manufacturing companies employ food batchmakers so that specific food products can be created on a large scale by following formulas or recipes.

Education and Training Requirements

For entry into food processing occupations, no specific academic experience or training is required. Most people join as trainees or apprentices, and learn their skills on the job. However, to further one’s career, it is beneficial to have certain basic knowledge pertaining to the field one chooses to work in. For instance, bakers need to know about the basics of bakery ingredients, products, and processes. In addition, one must also have knowledge of mechanical baking and mixing equipment.

To this end, it can be advantageous to opt for correspondence courses, related online degrees/certificates, or other certificate training programs, in addition to on-the-job training. These courses can often be completed quickly and on the students own schedule, and they teach students about nutrition and ingredients, the applied chemistry behind them, governmental health and sanitation rules, as well as business concepts. Besides, with the increasing use of computers in food processing industries, knowledge about their handling and operation may come in useful.

On-the-job training programs for meat and fish cutters and trimmers can last for several months. It may take up to 2 years before one can be established as a skilled butcher.

Food machine operators also require training. These programs can take anything from a couple of months to a year for completion. To enhance job opportunities, one can also opt for a degree or specialized training in fields like dairy processing.

Getting the Job

Information about employment opportunities in the food processing occupations is available at the State employment service offices. One can also approach local bakeries and meat processing industries for jobs.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Various certification programs are available for food processors. Though not mandatory, having a certificate may help in the advancement of one’s career. The Retail Bakers of America offer certificate programs in areas like baking sanitation, staff training, retail sales, and management. To obtain such certification, one needs to have at least a year of work experience. However, the requirements vary, and in case of some certifications, one needs to posses a certified baker designation together with 30 hours of coursework from a government agency or culinary school, 30 hours of development workshops, as well as 8 years of retail or commercial baking experience.

With suitable qualifications and experience, food processing workers can advance to supervisory positions like team leaders or department managers. One may also establish his/her own bakery or market, or even become a buyer for supermarkets and wholesalers.

Employment opportunities in food processing occupations are expected to grow by 8 percent in the next ten years. Skilled bakers, butcher, and food batchmakers are likely to be offered the best opportunities. However, food cooking machine operators are likely to face stiff competition since most cooking equipment is becoming automated.

Working Conditions

Working conditions in food processing occupations vary in accordance with the size and type of establishment one is employed in. Those in meat and fish cutting and trimming industries usually work in cool, damp environments, and are prone to cuts and occasional amputations. Also, they must strictly observe sanitary regulations to avoid bacterial and viral infections.

On the contrary, bakers have to work in hot, noisy environments, and are under strict order deadlines. Their work hours are erratic, and they may end up working evenings and during holidays.

Others in the profession, like roasting and drying machine operators, food cooking machine operators, and food batchmakers, are employed in production areas that can be extremely warm and noisy. They are also susceptible to burns and cuts, and may have to work through evenings and nights.

Where to Go for More Information

Retail Bakers of America
8201 Greensboro Dr., Suite 300
McLean, VA, 22102

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
1775 K St. NW.
Washington, DC 20006

Earnings and Benefits

The earnings of people in food processing occupations are largely dependent on their educational qualifications, region and industry of employment, and skills. As per the records of May 2006, the median yearly wages of those in bakery industries range between $19,900 and $22,580; that of butchers and meat cutters is between $23,080 and $34,190. Salary for those employed in meat, poultry, and fish cutting and trimming industries is significantly lesser. Their median annual wages are between $18,180 and $25,150. Food batchmakers report median yearly salaries ranging from $21,720 to $28,570.

Workers in the food processing occupations are typically offered regular benefits including paid leaves and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production