• 03.01.16

The Gruesome Statistics Behind One Of America’s Most Dangerous Jobs

New government data shows that hand amputations are scarily common for meatpacking workers.

The Gruesome Statistics Behind One Of America’s Most Dangerous Jobs
Watch out.

Meatpacking is one of the dangerous jobs you can do in America. Injuries requiring time away from work are three times more common than U.S. industry as a whole. With tenderizers, grinders, hooks and extruders all around, there’s always a chance you’ll come off worse.


Taking advantage of new regulations requiring meat producers to report amputations and hospitalizations within 24 hours, researcher Celeste Monforton filed a FOIA request with the government to see how many incidents Tyson Foods, one of the largest players in the business, reported last year.

The results are eye-catching, so to speak. Tyson, which processes almost a quarter of U.S. chicken and beef, had a string of nasty accidents in the first nine months of 2015. Here are just the amputations:

Finger tip. Both hands. Middle finger to first knuckle. All dismembered. And the reporting only covers federal-level OSHA data. Twenty-six states have their own workplace safety inspectors, including 10 with Tyson plants located in them. Iowa for instance has its own OSHA plan.

Here is how Tyson describes what happened at its Emporia, Kansas, beef-processing plant last April:

“Employee was working on the flat steak line running meats over the skinner when his left thumb was cut on the blade (skinner is like a planner that removes the outer layer of the meat) amputating the outside edge and end of the right thumb.”

The danger of meat-processing seems hard to avoid, given all the machinery you need to cut up large, complicated animals into cookable pieces. Perhaps robots would be more suited to the task?

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.