Meat/Seafood Process Worker Kaimahi Mīti/Mātaitai

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 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.

Physical Requirements

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.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for meat/seafood process workers includes:

  • any factory work
  • farming, fishing or aquaculture work
  • butchery work
  • work handling or preparing food.

Personal Qualities

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. 


Meat/seafood process workers need to have knowledge of:

  • how to handle animals and animal carcasses, or different species of fish and shellfish
  • knife-handling
  • 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.

Subject Recommendations

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a meat/seafood process worker. However, biology, English and maths may be useful.

Related Courses

Meat/Seafood Process Workers can earn around $47K-$86K per year.

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.

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.

Years Of Training

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.

Meat/Seafood Process Worker