What Food and Tobacco Processing Workers Do
Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacture of food and tobacco products.
Most food and tobacco processing workers are employed in manufacturing facilities. Because of production schedules, working early morning, evening, or night shifts is common. Most food and tobacco processing workers work full time.
How to Become a Food and Tobacco Processing Worker
There are no formal education requirements for some processing workers. However, food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma.
The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $30,200 in May 2019.
Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. The need to replace workers who leave the occupation should result in additional job openings.
Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacturing of food and tobacco products.
Food and tobacco processing workers typically do the following:
- Set up, start, or load food or tobacco processing equipment
- Check, weigh, and mix ingredients according to recipes
- Set and control temperatures, flow rates, and pressures of machinery
- Monitor and adjust ingredient mixes during production processes
- Observe and regulate equipment gauges and controls
- Record batch production data
- Clean workspaces and equipment in accordance with health and safety standards
- Check final products to ensure quality
Food and tobacco processing workers often have different duties depending on the type of machinery they use or goods they process.
Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders operate machines that produce roasted, baked, or dried food or tobacco products. For example, dryers of fruits and vegetables operate machines that produce raisins, prunes, or other dehydrated foods. Tobacco roasters tend machines that cure tobacco for wholesale distribution to cigarette manufacturers and other makers of tobacco products. Others, such as coffee roasters, follow recipes and tend machines to produce standard or specialty coffees.
Food batchmakers typically work in facilities that produce baked goods, pasta, and tortillas. Workers mix ingredients to make dough, load and unload ovens, operate pasta extruders, and perform tasks specific to large-scale commercial baking. Some workers are identified by the type of food they produce. For example, those who prepare cheese are known as cheese makers and those who make candy are known as candy makers.
Food cooking machine operators and tenders operate or tend cooking equipment to prepare food products. For example, potato and corn chip manufacturing workers operate baking and frying equipment.
Other workers operate machines that mix spices, mill grains, or extract oil from seeds.
Food and tobacco processing workers held about 259,200 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up food and tobacco processing workers was distributed as follows:
|Food processing workers, all other||44,200|
|Food cooking machine operators and tenders||30,400|
|Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders||22,100|
The largest employers of food and tobacco processing workers were as follows:
|Food and beverage stores||5|
Food manufacturing facilities are typically large, open floor areas with loud machinery, requiring workers to wear ear protection to guard against noise. Workers are frequently exposed to high temperatures when working around cooking machinery. Some work in cold environments for long periods with goods that need to be refrigerated or frozen.
Depending on the type of food or tobacco being processed, workers may be required to wear masks, hair nets, or gloves to protect the product from possible contamination.
Workers usually stand for the majority of their shifts while tending machines or observing the production process. Loading, unloading, or cleaning equipment may require lifting, bending, and reaching.
Injuries and Illnesses
Working around hot liquids or machinery that cuts or presses can be dangerous. The most common hazards are slips, falls, and cuts. To reduce the risks of injuries, workers are required to wear protective clothing and nonslip shoes.
Most food and tobacco processing workers work full time. Because of production schedules, working early morning, evening, or night shifts is common in many manufacturing facilities.
Some food processing positions are seasonal.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of food and tobacco processing workers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Agricultural and Food Science Technicians
Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.
Bakers mix ingredients according to recipes in order to make breads, pastries, and other baked goods.
|No formal educational credential||$27,700|
Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.
|No formal educational credential||$32,500|
Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods.
|See How to Become One||$26,360|
Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers.
|No formal educational credential||$24,800|
Metal and Plastic Machine Workers
Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.
|See How to Become One||$36,990|
For more information about line workers and food safety, visit
For more information about the food industry, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Food and Tobacco Processing Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/food-and-tobacco-processing-workers.htm (visited ).