Big Meat Braces for a Labor Shortage

Issue 02-13-17   |   Reviewer:   Eric Cardella


The meat packing industry is one of the largest employers of immigrants and refugees. Not surprisingly, the recent refugee ban from President Trump and the looming prospect of more stringent immigration reform has many industry insiders fearful of the possibility of labor shortages.

It is estimated that about 35 percent of the meat processing jobs in the U.S. are currently held by immigrants. Therefore, uncertainty regarding the future prospects of being able to employ immigrants is likely to result in the big meat processors to recalibrate their hiring and recruitment practices, which for about the last decade have relied on the ability to attract refuges.

In 2006, the crack down on undocumented workers lead to a large-scale raid of several meat packing plants and the arrest of some 1,300 undocumented workers. After the raid, executives at meat packing facilities decided to shift their hiring practices and target the refugee population. Now, with the looming threat fewer refugees to hire from, large meat packing plants will be forced to either offer higher wages to attract the requisite low-skilled workers or figure out a way to operate their plants with fewer workers. Ultimately, higher wages and less efficient operations could mean higher meat prices for consumers.

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