New report highlights dangerous working conditions in Midwest meat and poultry plants

A coalition of more than 50 Midwest human rights organizations, including Nebraska Appleseed, released a new report today that confirms dangerous conditions still exist for food and worker safety in meat and poultry processing plants.

The report, titled “Always Working Beyond the Capacity of Our Bodies: Meat and Poultry Processing Work Conditions and Human Rights in the Midwest,” summarizes in-depth interviews with meat and poultry workers in five sites across two states, Iowa and Minnesota.

The comments from these workers are alarming:

“We are packed in a small space, there is not enough space, we are shoulder to shoulder, there is no room to move, some cut in one direction, others in the other, the chances to harm a co-worker are high.” – Iowa Worker

“I cannot even bend my fingers; I have destroyed my hands and harmed my body.” – Minnesota Worker

“I passed out; I was washing the band where the turkeys are killed with gas. I don’t know too much about it, or if it is related to the gas, but if you are cleaning that band and get splashed with that water, it harms you.” – Minnesota Worker

Workers said serious injuries are caused by the rapid speed of the production line where they have to make constant repetitive motions with sharp knives tens of thousands of times every day. Workers also described being exposed on a regular basis to dangerous chemicals on the factory floor and reported facing discrimination and abuse from supervisors.

“Over the past decade and more, numerous reports have documented serious safety concerns in meat and poultry processing,” said Appleseed’s Omaid Zabih. “This report –  based on in-depth focus group conversations with workers from five different sites across two states – confirms that serious safety issues continue to be a problem for people who work in this industry.”

These conditions could get even worse if the USDA implements a proposed new poultry rule that would allow even faster speeds on the production line, which could pose more danger to our food supply and the workers who process it.  The Midwest Coalition is encouraging community members to ask their members of Congress to stop the new USDA poultry rule. Go to or to take action. Click here for a summary of the report

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