Abattoir workers carry out various tasks concerned with the slaughter (killing) of animals and preparation of carcasses. Those involved in the slaughter of the animals must be licensed.
Also known as
- Slaughterhouse Worker
Abattoir workers humanely handle and slaughter (kill) animals. There are four main areas of work:
- Unloading and moving of animals.
- Slaughtering of animals.
- Preparation of carcasses.
- Handling of by-products, such as hide and intestines.
The work of killing animals is usually completely separate from the preparation and butchering of carcasses. People will be involved in one or the other, but very rarely both.
Cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens are the animals most frequently slaughtered.
Animals are unloaded from lorries into lairages (pre-slaughter pens). From the lairage, animals are moved to the stunning pen. Here, the abattoir worker carries out the stunning using a bolt gun, gas or electric current. This process stops the animal from feeling pain. After stunning, the animal is killed immediately by cutting the throat.
Blood is drained from the animal and the hide, skin or hair is removed. Internal organs and intestines are taken out. The carcass is then split and placed in a chiller. Finally, abattoir workers wash down the pens, tools and equipment.
Work in an abattoir is often noisy and dirty. You must be willing to wear protective clothing, including head coverings.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Abattoir workers need to:
- Enjoy practical work.
- Be reasonably fit and able to lift and carry heavy carcasses.
- Understand the animals that they are dealing with.
- Work safely with dangerous tools and equipment.
- Be the kind of person that is not easily frightened or shocked.
People with skin conditions and breathing problems may need to think carefully about entering this job.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Abattoir workers earn in the range of £13,500 - £15,000, rising to £17,000 - £21,000 with experience.
Senior positions, with supervisory duties, can earn up to £25,000.
Some abattoir workers get paid an hourly rate, usually ranging from the minimum wage up to £10 per hour.
Hours of work
Abattoir workers usually work a basic 40-hour week, which may include shifts and weekend work.
Abattoir workers might also use their skills in other areas of meat processing, for example, wholesale and retail butchers, manufacturing butchers and in meat cutting factory work.
Demand for abattoir workers is falling.
The number of abattoirs is generally decreasing, although those remaining are becoming larger. Many include further stages of meat processing such as cutting carcasses to make joints.
Where could I work?
Employers are abattoirs processing animal carcasses.
Opportunities for abattoir workers occur in abattoirs in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.
Entry Routes and Training
An Intermediate Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start.
Training is usually on-the-job. You might attend part-time courses including off-the-job training.
The Meat Training Council offers qualifications such as Meat and Poultry Processing at levels 1 and 2.
Progression could be to supervisory positions.
To get onto an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need at least 2 GCSEs at grade C or above, possibly including English and Maths.
Age limits apply to this career.
Abattoir workers involved in killing animals, must be at least 18 and licensed by the Meat Hygiene Service.
Skills gained in handling animals are a distinct advantage. Previous work experience handling food can be useful.
Some people go into this career via a Food and Drink Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
- 21% of people in this career work part-time.
- 7% work flexible hours.
- 6% work on a temporary basis.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
National Skills Academy for Food & Drink
Sector Skills Council for the food and drinks industry
Food and drink careers
The Food and Drink Training and Education Council (FDTEC)
Address: PO Box 6404, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 6DX
Tel: 01525 371641
Scottish Meat Training
Address: 8-10 Needless Road, Perth PH2 0JW
Tel: 01738 637785