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Poultry Processing and Packaging

After a specified period of time in a facility’s chiller baths, the poultry are recovered for processing. This often involves the use of sharp-bladed instruments to debone, trim and cut the birds into various parts. In many cases, these parts can be processed with seasonings, spices, marinades, or other ingredients for consumers. Secondary processing may also occur in which parts are converted to ready-to-eat products such as hotdogs, sausages, or nuggets. Packaging of birds, either in whole or in parts, occurs as a last step prior to shipping to food distribution networks. During these processing and packaging steps, traumatic injuries and musculoskeletal disorders have been the primary health effects reported. Such traumatic injuries may result from the extensive use of knives and other sharp-bladed instruments; musculoskeletal disorders may result from the cumulative effects of rapid and repetitive movements by the workers. Additionally, ammonia and chlorine are also potentially used in these facilities and may present occupational hazards; the extensive use of dry ice may also present the possibility for worker exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide. Indoor temperatures are often kept quite low in these areas resulting in health issues related to cold stress. This section provides links to information and investigations about the evaluation and control of these and other potential exposures during poultry processing and packaging.

Woman cleaning poultry inside a plant

Chemical Hazards

NIOSH Publications and Resources:

Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: Carbon Dioxide

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Ammonia

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Chlorine

Physical Hazards

CDC and NIOSH Publications and Resources:

NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Cold Stress

NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Heat Stress

NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Noise

Ergonomic Hazards

NIOSH Publications and Resources:

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2007-0098-3061, Foster Farms, Livingston, California (ergonomic evaluation of frank hangers at a turkey processing plant)

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1989-0307-2009, Perdue Farms, Lewiston and Robersonville, North Carolina (ergonomic evaluation of two poultry processing plants)

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1989-0251-1997, Cargill Poultry Division, Buena Vista, Georgia (evaluation of cumulative trauma disorders at a poultry processing plant)

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1986-0505-1885, Longmont Turkey Processors, Longmont, Colorado (evaluation of carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal injuries at a turkey processing plant)

Related Published Articles:

Ergonomic Evaluation of Frank Hangers at a Turkey Processing Plant. Int J Occup Environ Health 2009 Jan; 15(1):112.

Other Resources

National Ag Safety Database: Ventilation of Poultry Slaughtering and Processing Plants

OSHA Poultry Processing Safety and Health Topic Page

OSHA Poultry Processing e-Tool

OSHA Guidelines for Poultry Processing: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

USDA FSIS Directive 7120.1: Safe and Suitable Ingredients Used the Production of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products

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  • Page last reviewed: April 8, 2014
  • Page last updated: April 8, 2014 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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