The meat and poultry industry employs nearly 500,000 workers. Almost 150,000 work in meat packing plants (those that slaughter animals) and another 120,000 work in meat processing plants that process meat into ground beef, hot dogs, ham and other products. The remaining 230,000 work in poultry processing facilities.
Historically, the industry's workforce has been a diverse mix of native-born Americans and foreign-born workers. The industry provides an excellent entry point into the U.S. economy for people with little formal education and no prior experience. At the turn of the century, most foreign-born workers in the U.S. meat and poultry industry came from Europe. Today, the largest percent of foreign born-workers are from Latin America. Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe also are well-represented in the industry's work force.
According to a 2006 survey of American Meat Institute members, the majority of responding plants (62 percent) stated that between 1 and 25 percent of their employees indicated they were non-citizens and presented documents showing they were eligible to work in the U.S.
An additional 29.3 percent of responding plants said that between 26 and 50 percent of their employees were foreign-born immigrants who presented eligible documentation. The final 7.8 percent of responding plants indicated that more than 50 percent of their employees were non-citizens who presented documents showing they were eligible to work in the U.S.