‘We have to fight for these conditions’: why Danish meat plant workers are Europe’s best paid

‘We have to fight for these conditions’: why Danish meat plant workers are Europe’s best paid

Denmark has secured decent pay and conditions within the sector. Will other EU countries finally follow suit?

Read more: ‘The whole system is rotten’: life inside Europe’s meat industry

In meat plants, there’s a golden rule: the production line never stops. For 28 years, Frank Vestergaard has worked in Denmark’s meat processing industry. When he started, he says, workers were expected to slaughter 80 pigs an hour on the line; today, that number has rocketed to 432 animals.

He starts work at 6am and deals with animal carcasses. The pigs are first put to sleep with gas, then the workers slit their throats to let the blood drain out. Vestergaard’s job is to remove any injuries from the carcasses, such as broken bones, which the vets on the line identify. If the gallbladder is accidentally punctured, for example, a yellow fluid can seep on to the meat, and Vestergaard has to remove it.

“We have six seconds per pig for one operation, and then there is a new pig. We do the same over and over again. That is how we earn our money.”

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