The Labour Shortfall Facing Canada’s Meat Processing Industry

The food & beverage manufacturing industry is facing a critical labour shortage, but this is even more pronounced in the meat processing industry. 

So what is driving this labour shortage? 

We unpack the reasons behind the declining number of applicants for meat processing jobs and what it means for the meat processing industry. 

The meat processing industry is under the knife. 

In an effort to give context to the labour shortage, here is a brief overview of why meat processors are currently struggling to fill open positions leaving an average job vacancy rate of more than 10%

With the meat processing industry making up such a large proportion of the food and beverage manufacturing industry, meat processing plants most feel the labour shortage.  

“More than 21,000 Ontarians work in the meat and poultry sector, which accounts for one-quarter of food and beverage jobs.” 

- Farmtario

One of the top reasons for the labour shortages in the meat processing industry is that meat processing jobs, such as meat cutters and butchers, are physically demanding positions, often requiring meat cutters and butchers to work long hours in cold and wet conditions. 

The work can be repetitive and monotonous, which can make it less appealing to many food and beverage manufacturing industry workers. In addition, there is no standard training for meat processing professionals, meaning that skills are learned on the job. 

Limited career growth and lack of pay, in fact, these positions tend to pay the lowest in the food and beverage industry which factors into high turnover rates, 41% to be exact. 

Previously meat processing manufacturers (whose plants are mainly based in rural regions) relied on foreign nationals to help address the labour shortage. The programme referred to as Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was created to allow the meat processing industry to hire foreign nationals to fill labour shortages.

Since then it has undergone regulation changes that have impacted meat processors' hiring foreign nationals. Meat processors are calling for the federal government to review the guidelines for temporary foreign workers.  

                                                                                                                 (Source: FPSC)

Beefing up perks for meat processing professionals. 

So now that we have the context for the labour shortage and why meat processing has come up short. Let’s look at what this means for you as a meat processing professional. 

Meat processors have seen the error of their ways. They are adapting to the demands of modern meat processing professionals, offering higher wages to meat cutters, butchers and other highly skilled professionals with better pay, benefits, and training programs. Ontario's Agri-careers support initiatives are an example of more improvement to come. 

What The Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative Really Means For Employees

FPSC has developed the National Occupational Standard to create standardised certifications for Industrial Meat Cutters. Meat processors like Cargill Foods are relooking their benefits with signing bonuses, child care, medical services, and housing support, making meat processing jobs more appealing. 

Meat processors are also investing in robotics, AI and automation to address some of the manual tasks for meat cutters and butchers. All of these opportunities over better workplace environments and the ability to improve your skill sets with improved career growth opportunities. 

The top meat processing jobs to make the cut.

If you are looking for a new position, here are some of the top meat processing jobs in demand:

  1. General Meat cutters and butchers 
  2. Quality control and food safety professionals 
  3. Maintenance and repair workers 
  4. Packing and shipping professionals 
  5. Food scientists 
  6. Automation and robotics specialists

Not sure which company is right for you? 

Let QTalent help you. 

QTalent is Canada’s top talent discovery platform for highly-skilled technical operations professionals in the Meat, Dairy, Bakery & Beverage industries (and more to come!) to get discovered by leading consumer brands and land their ideal job. 

We provide you with the following: 

  • Robust company profiles 
  • Geo-mapped search results 
  • Culture fit search query criteria 

Romy Zwiers


Romy Zwiers is a journalist and marketing professional with 16 years of experience working across industries with a keen focus on the beverage and food industry, having worked with companies like KFC, Nandos, Cadbury and Coca-Cola.

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