There is a fascinating article on this morning that exemplifies the widely varying challenges people in the workers’ compensation industry face. It is an interview with Brian Rodgers, the senior director of corporate risk management for Butterball LLC. It covers, in extensive detail, how his company has reinvented the process of, well, processing turkeys, with an eye on reducing risk and injury to their employees.

For people like me, those who love meat in many forms but wish to be protected from the realities of the food supply chain, it can be a jarring read. It lays out the harsh realities of the jobs people must do in order for all of us to be fed.

I would basically suck as a frontiersman. I love steak. And chicken. And turkey. And pork. And I prefer to find all of those items in their natural environment; wrapped in styrene in my grocer’s freezer or refrigerator. I couldn’t be a hunter. I’d be far more likely to take Bambi home and let it stay in the guest bedroom than to convert it into venison. At the same time, I am thankful that there are people who are capable of completing these tasks, so the rest of us can eat. I’ve often told my sister, whose family is highly self-sufficient in the hunt it/ slaughter it/ butcher it/ freeze it for a rainy day genre, that when the fall of society comes I am headed to their place in Colorado. They can hunt and forage and feed us after the end of days. My job will be to maintain the compound’s website.

Of course, that all is contingent on my wife and I having enough ammo to make it through heavily armed Mississippi. 

The article starts with one disturbing example when it describes the changes made in the “live hanging room”, a place where many injuries used to occur. For those of you like me, who believed turkeys were just hard plastic coated balls of meat in the grocer’s freezer, this article will be a shock. They were apparently live animals first.

Who knew? 

From a workers’ compensation perspective, it is a very informative piece. It highlights the extreme challenges some companies have in making their workplace safe for the people who have some pretty dangerous jobs. These are things most of us never have to think about. One example was on the “disassembly line”, where they had to stagger their employees to be far enough from each other to reduce “buddy cuts”, where someone could be sliced by a co-workers rapidly moving blade.

It turns out that Butterball’s 7,200 employees churn out about 85 million turkeys a year. One plant alone produces 60,000 frozen plastic coated balls of delicious goodness every single day. We should be thankful that there are people willing to do this type of work, and equally gratified that their employer has been working with an eye for their safety.

But I will warn you before you read that article. It can be a bit disturbing. If you are in any way like me when it comes to the realities of the food chain, you may find yourself questioning who really is the bigger butterball. 

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