Meat/Seafood Process Worker
Meat/seafood process workers process, grade and package meat, fish or shellfish for local and overseas markets. Some also slaughter animals.
Meat/seafood process workers usually earn
$47K-$86K per year
Source: MIANZ and Turk's, 2019.
Pay for meat/seafood process workers varies depending on experience, what they process and the region where they work.
- Meat/seafood process workers usually start on minimum wage or a little more a year.
- Qualified meat/seafood process workers with up to two years’ experience can earn up to $66,000.
- Meat/seafood process supervisors can earn up to $86,000.
Sources: Meat Industry Association of New Zealand; and Turk's, 2019.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Meat/seafood process workers may do some or all of the following:
- stun and kill animals
- prepare animals for processing by removing skin or excess flesh
- cut or fillet meat, fish or shellfish to size requirements
- remove bones from animals
- grade, pack and weigh meat, fish or shellfish
- maintain processing machinery and other equipment such as knives
- clean the processing area and packing line with hot water or sanitising chemicals
- carry out hygiene and quality control checks.
Skills and knowledge
Meat/seafood process workers need to have knowledge of:
- how to handle animals and animal carcasses, or different species of fish and shellfish
- health and safety at the processing plant
- food safety requirements
- how to sort, weigh and pack meat, fish or shellfish
- operating and cleaning machinery used for meat and seafood processing
- basic English and maths.
Meat/seafood process workers:
- may do shift work and may work overtime and weekends
- are often employed only during the peak harvest season of the species they work with
- work in factories on land or in ships in conditions that may be confined, cool, noisy, smelly or slippery. They may also work at heights, and in rough weather at sea
- may spend up to seven weeks at a time at sea.
What's the job really like?
Seafood process worker video
The Moana NZ team talk about their different skills and roles – 5.56 mins.
So I've arrived at fisheries company, Moana New Zealand, and this place is huge! And look, all I have to do is sign into this flash computer, and someone comes out to meet me. Let's check this place out.
Alyx: Kia ora, ko Alyx taku ingoa, no Ngāti Whātua ahau, and I'm the communications assistant for Moana New Zealand.
Brook: Alyx has a degree in science, works on the sustainability team for her iwi, and was awarded a scholarship to spend a year in Japan to study all things fish, and today, she's going to show us around.
Alyx: This is where the engine room of our company is. So a lot of our workers come in here, they start around 4.30 in the morning. So we have a load of fish come in, they'll skin it, fillet it, pack it up in the ice, and ship it out that afternoon to all our customers. Freshest product!
Brook: I couldn't come to one of New Zealand's biggest fisheries companies, if I didn't get in the factory. So, I'm going in.
Anastasia: I'm like a big mama in the factory.
Brook: Anastasia is the definition of adaptable. She's a packer, a boner, a knifehand, she knows everything about the factory. This even got her a promotion to a full-time training manager. Oosh.
Anastasia: You have to have the right attitude towards your staff. I'm like a person that listens, and also I have a heart for everyone in our factory.
Brook: And she can dance! Now she told me, if I was willing to learn, I could work here. I got this.
Michelle: My name's Michelle Cherrington, I'm the group communications manager for Moana New Zealand. I'm from Whakatane, Ngāti Awa.
It's not necessarily about the qualifications that you've got on a piece of paper, it’s about the time that you give, the interest that you show, the curiosity that you show and the things that you do outside of your work or study, school life.
Alyx: I left my high-paid desk job with a computer and a warm office to go and work in 'grow it sheds’ with water and beanies and head lamps and it wasn't the most glamorous thing I've ever had to do. It was definitely a challenging environment for me, but looking at it as a learning curve, having a positive attitude towards something I might not have necessarily chosen to be at the top of my list of things to do, did lead me to where I am today, absolutely.
Brook: This isn't gonna go very long. (laughter)
Brook: Blue cod
Nathan: Red cod
Nathan: John Dory
Nathan: Kia ora my name is Nathan Reid, I work at Moana New Zealand.
Brook: Nathan knows his fish. He started as a fisherman fresh out of high school, headed off to uni to get a degree in business, and like Alyx, he got a scholarship to head to Japan and now looks after hundreds of workers all over the world.
Nathan: In my current role I look after projects, I look after advocacy stuff, I look after fishermen, there's so many different roles you can do, and different avenues you can come from.
For any rangatahi coming through it’s have a crack, you know, don't worry about where it is today, think about where it can be tomorrow. If you work hard today, the opportunity might not be there now but it'll come, you work hard, you know, you keep putting your hand up.
Brook: That willingness to learn.
Nathan: Yeah willingness to learn, you know you'll kick yourself later if you didn't try something and you missed out, missed those opportunities.
Alyx: So manaakitanga is one of our core values here at Moana New Zealand. So it's about making sure that when we have guests and visitors that they are well looked after and that they feel welcome.
It's also about making sure that our people are looked after, whether they're in the factory every day, whether they're in the office every day, and so it's important for us as Māori and as non-Māori to just show hospitality.
Brook: Time to head to the Coromandel where the oysters live, yeah boy.
Tukumana: Kia ora I'm Tukumana, I'm an oyster shucker. I work at Moana New Zealand.
Brook: As you can tell, I'm a natural. These guys are the local oyster shucking champs, and get through about 2,000 oysters a day. And they get paid per oyster, chur.
Tukumana: I didn't open first, I was in the packing room. It was sort of train up, and then I wanted to open just ‘cause I knew there was more money in opening, and from there yeah just...
Brook: Worked your way up?
Tukumana: Worked my way up and got in there. I guess they gave me the job because I wanted to do it.
Brook: And just like that, it's home time.
I've met so many awesome people at this place. It's obvious that these guys make their jobs fun which helps them get to work every day.
There are hundreds of different types of jobs here, so whether you wanted to be a fisherman, work in the factory or at a computer, and if you have the right attitude and are willing to learn, these guys all reckon you could become the CEO.
That guy was saying you need to be ready to learn stuff. Well, you do that the whole time, right? So when you go for that interview show that you're interested in the company and the job. Do a bit of checking out online, and prepare some questions to ask them.
Check out some more awesome Māori business stories in the video section, or visit careers.govt.nz/maia
There are no specific entry requirements to become a meat/seafood process worker, as skills are gained on the job.
However, it may be useful to complete a qualification such as:
- New Zealand Certificate in Food or Beverage Processing (Meat Processing) (Levels 2, 3 and 4)
- New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Skills – Seafood (Levels 2, 3 and 4).
Apprenticeships in meat or seafood processing may also be available for people over the age of 16.
To become a meat/seafood process worker you usually need to pass:
- a basic medical test
- a drug test, and be clear from the influence of alcohol and drugs while at work
- a literacy and numeracy test.
You may also need to declare that you do not have any serious infectious diseases.
- Primary ITO website - information about meat and seafood processing courses
- Primary ITO website - information about New Zealand Apprenticeships
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a meat/seafood process worker. However, biology, English and maths may be useful.
Meat/seafood process workers need to be:
- good at managing their time
- careful, quick and efficient
- able to follow instructions
- able to work well as part of a team
- willing to learn new skills
- comfortable spending long periods at sea.
Those working in supervisory roles also need to be:
- good at record keeping
- good at time management
- able to manage people
- able to communicate well.
Useful experience for meat/seafood process workers includes:
- any factory work
- farming, fishing or aquaculture work
- butchery work
- work handling or preparing food.
Meat/seafood process workers need to have:
- a good level of fitness
- the ability to stand for long periods
- the ability to lift heavy boxes or trays
- good hand-eye co-ordination
- a good standard of personal hygiene.
Seafood process workers working at sea must not suffer from seasickness.
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- (07) 858 4821 - email@example.com - www.primary.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Large occupation with good employment opportunities
Meat/seafood processing is a large area of employment in New Zealand, which means the chances of getting a job are good.
According to the Census, 18,729 meat/seafood process workers worked in New Zealand in 2018 (meat boner and slicer 2,544, slaughterer 4,785, meat process worker 6,927, poultry process worker 861, seafood process worker 1,743, other process workers 1,869).
Seasonal work creates high staff turnover
Most meat/seafood processing plants operate between six and nine months of the year, so most workers are employed on seasonal contracts. As a result, staff turnover rates are high. Peak times vary depending on the region and the type of meat or seafood being processed.
Large-scale recruitment drives take place at the start of every season. Your best chance of getting work is to contact the employer directly before the new season.
During the off season (usually winter), many meat/seafood process workers find work in other industries such as horticulture, farming and forestry. Poultry workers can work in the poultry processing industry year round as there are no seasonal highs and lows.
Meat/seafood process workers mainly work for large employers
Meat/seafood process workers are employed by meat and seafood companies in processing plants on land or processing ships at sea.
Some of the biggest employers of meat/seafood process workers are:
- Silver Fern Farms, Alliance Group, ANZCO Foods, AFFCO (red meat processing), who each run multiple processing sites around the country.
- Talley's, Sanford, Sealord, Moana Pacific (seafood processing).
- Goldstone, P, policy manager, Meat Industry Association of New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019.
- Miles, C, payroll officer, Turk's, careers.govt.nz interview July 2019.
- Stats NZ, 'Business demography statistics: enterprises by industry 2018', accessed May 2019. (www.stats.govt.nz)
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Meat/seafood process workers may move into factory supervisor positions or production manager roles.
Those working in seafood processing at sea may also move into deckhand or other crew positions.
Meat/seafood process workers may specialise in different stages of processing, such as slaughtering and grading animals, or grading certain species of fish or shellfish.
Last updated 4 April 2023