Frontline Modern Meat- Interview with Bill Haw PBS Name: ___________________________

Name: ___________________________
English 10A
Date: _____________________
Mrs. Mason
Frontline Modern Meat- Interview with Bill Haw
Bill Haw is the CEO of Kansas City’s National Farms, which operates one of the largest cattle outfits in the country.
Describe [the slaughterhouse] for me. People really don’t know what it’s like in there.
Well, the slaughterhouse is not a pretty thing. I mean, it’s a necessary process. It’s a highly efficient process.
But it’s not now, nor never will be, a very pretty thing. Animals come there to die, to be eviscerated, to be
decapitated, to be de-hided -- and all of those are violent, bloody and difficult things to watch. So your first and
foremost impression of at least the initial stages of the packing house are a very violent, very dehumanizing sort
of thing.
But the fact is, we are meat eaters, most of us. And it’s a highly efficient way and a reasonably humane way.
The animals are rendered unconscious before any of this happens. I think there’s a concern for humane
treatment of the animals. But the process itself is a violent and unpleasant sort of thing. ...
As you progressively go down the chain ... it becomes a less violent, a less bloody, a less difficult thing to
watch, and really becomes kind of a miracle of efficiency as that live animal is reduced to a carcass and the
carcass is reduced to parts that we’re very familiar with in eating. ... The economies of scale, the mobilization of
capital -- all of those things that drive businesses are very much at work in the packing industry...
You describe it as this difficult environment for the animal, to some degree. What about for the worker?
I understand that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it’s the most dangerous job in America.
Certainly worker safety historically has not been as good as it should have been in the packing industry. It is
becoming better and better -- both humanely driven by the management of the packing companies, and very
selfishly driven by the fact that the lack of safe practices can become an incredibly expensive thing. So packers
have continued to develop better safety practices, individual automation of individual acts that reduce the stress
on the individuals working in the packing business. It is still a tough way to make a living; a difficult job.
Particularly with the line speeds; they’re fast, people are in close [quarters], they’re wielding knives. ...
The line speed is, of course, an issue that people are concerned about. The faster the line goes the more efficient
the operation is, certainly, up to a point. But also the speed with which the working people are required to work
increases. The trick is to find that balance between efficient and reasonable production, and going beyond that
point to where you endanger the workers who are working with knives, with sawing devices. And you can
protect them with chain mail and gloves and other equipment. But they’re still working with knives and other
cutting devices that, as people become more fatigued, become more dangerous. ...
It’s tough work.
It is tough work. And it’s essentially dehumanizing work. There’s a lot of blood and a lot of heavy activity that
goes on. I think the packing plants have dramatically improved their working conditions over a period of time.
It’s a low-margin business, and I think the temptation certainly was to drive their people very hard, at one point.
But I visited with a major packer just last night, as a matter of fact. And their turnover, for instance, has
dramatically slowed down. They’re retaining workers better. Working conditions are becoming better. There’s a
great sensitivity to things like carpal tunnel syndrome.
So I think as evolutions occur, we’ve got another one occurring in which conditions are better, pay is better, and
a number of immigrant people have really been able to live out that American dream -- if not in their
generation, in their children’s generation…