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Packaging Automation - Considerations for the Meat Industry


Facing a tight labor market, wage inflation and high employee turnover, meat and poultry processors are increasingly turning to automation. Simply defined, machine automation is any information technology that is designed to control the work of machines. Advances in robotics and technology have made it possible for machines to perform some tasks previously performed by people.

In a recent report from CoBank titled Help Wanted, profiles of Schwartz Farms, a pork producer headquartered in Minnesota, and Case Farms, a North Carolina poultry processor, provide a glimpse of how the industry’s labor woes are preventing expansion and negatively impacting profits. Their stories are echoed
throughout the industry.

“In the meat business, we have pretty high employee turnover, both operational and mechanical,” says Steve Valesko, vice president of engineering for Butterball. “The more we can automate, the better it’s going to be for us because it’s so hard to fill these positions.”

In a 2017 report from PMMI (The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies), The Trends Shaping Meat, Poultry and Seafood Processing, three of four firms surveyed already use automation in parts of their operation. The meat industry significantly lags other types of manufacturing. Just 13% of all robot sales in 2017 were to the food, beverage or personal care industry, compared to 34%.


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