The Thanksgiving rush requires employees at Butterball to work in dangerous conditions for 50 days without a break.
An exposé published this week in media outlet Slate revealed the injurious conditions turkey slaughterhouse workers are subjected to during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Exposé writer Gabriel Thompson points out that slaughterhouse workers in the turkey industry experience more injuries due to the heavier weight of the birds and increased line speed—processing up to 1,410 birds per hour. Lisandro Vega—a former employee at the Huntsville, AR slaughterhouse of turkey producer Butterball—said that he worked as many as 50 days without a break, which resulted in permanent back injuries. Vilma Asencio worked at a turkey plant for meat company Cargill since 2001 and lost feeling in her hand—brought on by carpal tunnel syndrome—after performing repetitive motions on the slaughter line. Asencio was denied worker’s compensation for the surgery she received, as the company determined her injury was not work-related. Several years later, Asencio had to undergo a second surgery for tendonitis in her shoulder brought on by the repetitive lifting of turkeys. Cargill paid the insurance claim but fired Asencio shortly thereafter. According to Thompson, companies such as Butterball, Cargill, and Tyson do not report most injuries that occur within their facilities in order to maintain the image of a safe workplace. An Oxfam report released earlier this year outlined similar working conditions for factory farm employees year round, where many were forced to wear adult diapers because after being denied bathroom breaks.