Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who Made That Butterball For You?

Butterball Turkeys get killed, cleaned and wrapped in plastic for you in a small town near the Arkansas River, not far from Fort Smith. Women in their 60s, who have worked all their lives there, get paid $11.40 per hour. That's about $24,000 per year.

It is not easy work. Turkeys need to be stunned and dispatched and gutted. Someone has to cut the oil gland out of the tail. Necks and gizzards and livers have to be cleaned and stuffed into a cavity. During a six-week period that begins in October, the line runs seven days a week to process fresh turkey. It is a period people in town simply refer to as “fresh,” and it is grueling.

“It’s a long battle when we’re working fresh, but I at least got some bills paid and Christmas money,” Mrs. Farmer said. “I just sit there and hum and sing and talk to my friend Willie. We get through it together.”


Joshua Freeman, 34, recently lost a race for mayor. He is in the bar business, in part because turkey farming did not pay enough. His father got out of the business after 15 years, he said, because Butterball kept requiring improvements just as the family got close to paying everything off and realizing profits.

“It was like working for the company store,” Mr. Freeman said. “You could never get ahead.”

via New York Times

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hat tip to Arkansas Blog