The food manufacturing industry is a complex business that involves everything from the raising and slaughter of animals for meat to the preparation and packaging of consumer food products. Almost everything you find in your local grocery store was created by some sector of the food manufacturing industry.
Farmers depend heavily on the food manufacturing industry to get their products in the hands of consumers and to get paid. Food manufacturing professionals take fresh meats, vegetables and other ingredients from farmers and prepare them for use by consumers in grocery stores, restaurants or other retail or wholesale food services. In the United States there are approximately 28,000 established businesses in the food manufacturing business, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Food manufacturing began in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution. It brought ready-to-use food products to the average family who did not have employed cooks and servants. Since then the number of companies peaked and began to consolidate, forming into a few multinational manufacturers handling a range of food brands. Technology has also begun shaping the industry as many packaging and preparation methods are now done by machine instead of by hand.
Types of production jobs
Although many brands may be housed under one roof in modern food manufacturing, there are still many types of manufacturing sectors within the industry. Red meat production is perhaps the most labor-intensive of the industry’s tasks. Fish cutters are skilled workers and make up a small percentage of production workers compared with the red meat houses, according to the Department of Labor. Bakers prepare breads, cakes, pastry and other goods for sale, while decorators use their artistic skills to put the finishing touches on their preparations. Cooking and freezing machine operators, machine maintenance technicians, supervisors, scientists, engineers, sales people and more all make up the large family of food production employees. Recent statistical data shows the food manufacturing industry provided 1.5 million jobs, and 36 percent of all food manufacturing facilities in the U.S. employ 500 or more people.
According to the Department of Labor, the food manufacturing industry has one of the highest incidences of injury and illness among all industries, and animal slaughtering operations have the highest incidences among the food manufacturing industry. Many production jobs in the food manufacturing industry involve repetitive and physically demanding work. Repetitive-strain injuries to hands, wrists and elbows are common among these workers. In 2006, there were 7.4 cases of work-related injury per 100 production employees, according to the Department of Labor.
Unlike most industries, food manufacturing is only slightly impacted by economic change. The demand for food remains consistent, even during times of recession. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that while animal diseases, trade agreements and weather can affect food production, the long-term demand usually remains steady.