Andy Hanacek

Around this time every year, at Pro Football Weekly, the editorial staff would pass around nominations for the annual humanitarian award, which was given to one ultra-philanthropic player each year. Big deal, right?

Well, the point here is, certain editors had different views of what it meant for a player to be charitable or share his success. Typically, those players who simply wrote checks, showing their support but not actively assisting the less fortunate were commended, but not celebrated with the honor of winning the award. Furthering this point, there is, in fact, a crucial difference between helping out when requested and offering assistance outright.

This applies to money, assets, and even knowledge and information. The meat- and poultry-processing industries have done an excellent job of making worker safety a non-compete issue — sharing best practices and strategies — but it only seems as though processors share this knowledge when asked.

Much like Butterball, our cover story this issue, and Smithfield Foods, which has been open and forthcoming about its own worker-safety program, processors who have found success in even the most remote area of worker safety should be trumpeting their accomplishments to the rest of the trade as well as the consumer press and public.

It’s difficult enough in this business to attract quality workers who want to be involved in such down-and-dirty jobs; the stigma of poor working conditions still haunts the meat and poultry industry to this day, regardless of the enormous strides made since the early 20th century.

As we roll into what will certainly be a challenging year on the financial side of the equation, processors should take every inch they can get and turn it into as much of a mile as possible. Food safety, worker safety and the like are areas processors can control, have done a solid job with thus far, and can take to the job market to attract the best and brightest in what appears to be a flooded pool of candidates. They can also actively share this information through a variety of media — not limited, of course, to The National Provisioner.

It behooves the industry to celebrate worker safety — convince potential employees and the mainstream public that the meat industry cares about its workplace conditions. Processors who get the attention of mainstream media outlets in a positive way will have a leg up in recruitment and will also help to shove the ghosts of meatpacking’s past further away from center stage.