Abattoir operatives work in slaughterhouses. These may be part of a larger site that manufactures and produces meat and meat products for sale to retailers and butchers.
Abattoirs usually specialise in slaughtering sheep, cattle, pigs or poultry. Daily responsibilities vary depending on the type of abattoir, but may include:
Abattoir operatives work alongside health and hygiene, and quality control inspectors. A government-approved vet also works on site to make sure the animals do not suffer and that the meat is fit for human consumption.
High standards of hygiene and cleanliness are essential in abattoirs. Operatives must follow strict procedures when storing the carcasses, handling the meat and disposing of waste products. They work quickly, as it is more hygienic. Strict health and safety rules must also be followed to avoid accidents caused by machinery or equipment.
Abattoir operatives work 37 to 40 hours a week, usually from 7.30am till 3.30pm. They may work a shift system and part-time work is sometimes available.
Working inside, areas are clean and must conform to strict government guidelines. Abattoirs can be smelly, cold (as parts of the building will be refrigerated) and wet, from washing down and cleaning.
The work involves a lot of standing, and using dangerous machinery and equipment. Protective clothing is provided which consists of a hat, overalls and rubber boots. Long hair must be tied back.
Salaries may start at around £10,500 a year.
There are abattoirs throughout the UK, generally in country areas. Over the last few years the number of abattoirs has declined significantly. Abattoirs are now far larger in size and handle greater numbers of livestock than in the past.
Employment prospects are good as consumer demand for meat products remains high. Due to the nature of the work, some companies find it difficult to recruit.
Vacancies may be advertised directly with abattoirs, in Jobcentre Plus offices and in local newspapers.
Abattoir operatives involved in killing animals must be at least 18 and licensed by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), an agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
There are no minimum entry qualifications for abattoir operatives. Some GCSE's/S grades in English and maths may be useful for people who want to progress to supervisory or management positions.
Some local colleges may offer:
Many young people start their training through an Apprenticeship scheme.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Anyone working on food preparation needs a food hygiene certificate. The Meat Training Council (MTC) offers a Foundation and Advanced Certificate in Meat and Poultry Hygiene. A number of training organisations, including Scottish Meat Training, offer foundation/elementary, intermediate and advanced diploma courses in food hygiene.
Training is on the job and covers:
The Meat Training Council (MTC) offers various courses through approved centres, including:
Successful completion of these courses can lead on to membership of The Worshipful Company of Butchers' Guild.
Working towards qualifications may involve attending a college or training centre on day release. Alternatively, a tutor or assessor from an approved training centre may visit workplaces to provide training and monitor candidates' development. There are approved centres offering MTC qualifications throughout the UK.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An abattoir operative should:
Supervisory and management positions are available. With training and experience, it may be possible for an abattoir operative to train as a meat inspector, or move into training.
There are also opportunities to move into quality control, product development and related areas such as food marketing.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),
Customer Contact Unit, Eastbury House,
30-34 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL
Tel: 0845 933 5577
Food Standards Agency, Aviation House,
125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6NH
Tel: 020 7276 8000
Improve Ltd, Ground Floor, Providence House,
2 Innovation Close, Heslington, York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448
Meat Training Council (MTC), PO Box 141,
Winterhill House, Snowdon Drive, Milton Keynes MK6 1YY
Tel: 01908 231062
Scottish Meat Training,
8/10 Needless Road, Perth PH2 0JW
Tel: 01738 637785
The Worshipful Company of Butchers,
Butchers' Hall, 87 Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7EB
Tel: 020 7600 4106
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.