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Meat Processing

What is it?

Meat processors slaughter animals at facilities where the meat is to be sold or kept onsite for canning, cooking, curing, freezing, or making meat products. They also prepare byproducts such as lard, gelatin, or tallow.

Why is it a concern?

Meat processing has a much higher injury and illness rate than the average U.S. factory. Most illnesses are caused by handling bacteria or infected carcasses or tissues. The process also generates wastewater, which can contaminate drinking water sources and spread disease. Meat processing can also create harmful air pollution.

Because of the repetitive motion involved in meat processing, workers may also suffer ergonomic injury. These injuries can cause pain and disability.

Who is at risk?

  • Meat processing workers are at risk.
  • Communities near meat processing plants may also be at risk.

What pollutants are of greatest concern?

Meat processing generates wastewater, which may contain:

Air pollution generated by meat processing can include:

Reduce your risk

  • Do you live near a meat processing plant?
  • If so, do you use well water?
  • Check your well water routinely for possible contamination or runoff from the plant.
  • If your well water has high levels of chemicals, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on how to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
  • Ensure the plant is properly treating and disposing of solid waste.
  • Do not let children play near meat processing plants.
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