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Work in the Food Production Industry

By: Margaret Paxton - Updated: 7 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Work In The Food Production Industry

From ploughing to meat packaging; work in the food production industry covers a huge rangeof different jobs and opportunities.

Crops for Food

It’s not all about meat and dairy products! The food production industry also covers arable crops and forage crops.

The changes in growing conditions of our seasonal weather influence what we grow and when. Production is also related to soil types and farming methods. All food production is subject to stringent hygiene regulations and must meet British standards. Organically grown produce has to meet even more specific requirements to qualify as truly organic.

In arable farming for food production, cultivations such as ploughing, drilling, rolling, fertilisingand harvesting are carried out during different seasons to obtain the separate products. Each of these processes need skilled manpower and experienced management to obtain maximum yields.

In the UK our main crops are wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape and sugar beet, with vegetable crops that include potatoes and other root vegetables, peas, beans and brassicas, like cabbage. Crops grown for animal forage include grassland, hay, silage and forage maize.

What Are Arable Crops Used For?

Wheat is processed and used in a variety of everyday foods. Bread and breakfast cereals areamong the best known food items that contain wheat, but it is also present in cakes and puddings, flour and pizza and even pet foods. Although a lot of the work in these processes are mechanised,there are still plenty of jobs for people in this type of food processing.

Oats are used in breakfast cereals and cakes too, as well as in crackers and haggis!

Oilseed rape has many culinary uses - vegetable oils and dressings, margarine spreads and also incakes and biscuits.

Barley is well known for its uses - beers and whisky being among the best known! Pearl barley is atraditional addition to soups and stews and there are breakfast cereals and breads made with barley too. As with wheat, some pet foods also contain barley.

The vegetable crops speak for themselves, but the harvesting work on offer here is hard, seasonal and poorly paid.

Animal Products

Codes of practice are implemented for cattle, laying hens, meat chickens, pigs and sheep and the Agriculture Act has been in place since 1968 to ensure protection for animals in the food production industry. Breeding animals and rearing animals is closely monitored and regulated not only for the well-being of the animal, but also to ensure meat and dairy products are of the highest quality for humanconsumption.

Beef cattle from beef herds are suckled until they are about 6 months old when they are weanedand the process of being finished (fattened up) for slaughter begins. Slaughter takes place when the cattle are between 18-30 months old and weigh 450-550 kg. For calves from dairy herds, it is slightly different. The calves are weaned off their mother’s milk and fed a replacer from the age of approximately 5 weeks (the cow’s milk is used for milk and milk products for humans) then finished off and slaughtered by the time they are 14-20 months old. Beef products include steaks, roasting joints and all the other cuts of meat available, along with processed products like burgers, corned beef and soups.

Pigs are slaughtered at around the age of 185 days old when they weigh 60-100kg. Their carcases are used to produce sausages, bacon and all the other cuts of meat. Pork is also processed for pies, hams, tinned meats and some ready-made meals.

These rearing, weaning and finishing stages are carried out for all meat product animals at different levels to produce food for people.

Milk, butter cheese and eggs are also produced for human consumption.

Organic Products

Organic products must be free from artificial fertilisers and pesticides. (The soil has to be organic too.) The organic approach to production is to combine environmentally and economically sustainable systems with humane farming methods. Habitat management, crop rotation and self-supported food growth for livestock are among the organic food producers ideals.


Work in the food production industry starts with the planting of seeds in soil and can finish aseither organic ‘farm to fridge’ goods or wrapped, packaged and transported products. There are many processes from start to finish. The chain of associated jobs includes labourers, stockmen, drivers, dieticians, hygiene inspectors and sales staff.

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