Food and Tobacco Processing Workers


Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacturing of food and tobacco products.

Duties

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 268,700 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up food and tobacco processing workers was distributed as follows:

Food batchmakers 163,800
Food processing workers, all other 48,900
Food cooking machine operators and tenders 35,100
Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders 21,000

The largest employers of food and tobacco processing workers were as follows:

Food manufacturing 73%
Employment services 5
Wholesale trade 5
Food and beverage stores 4

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.

“Food processing workers, all other” have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. (“All other” titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics that do not fit into any of the other detailed occupations.)

Work Schedules

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.

There are no formal education requirements for some food and tobacco processing workers. However, food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Food and tobacco processing workers learn their skills through on-the-job training.

Education

Food batchmakers and food cooking machine operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Because workers often adjust the quantity of ingredients that go into a mix, math and reading skills are considered helpful.

Training

Food and tobacco processing workers learn on the job. Training may last from a few weeks to a few months. During training, workers learn health and safety rules related to the type of food or tobacco that they process. Training also involves learning how to operate specific equipment, following safety procedures, and reporting equipment malfunctions.

Experienced workers typically teach trainees how to properly use and care for equipment.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Workers must be able to detect small changes in the quality or quantity of food products. They must also closely follow health and safety standards to avoid food contamination and injury.

Physical stamina. Workers stand on their feet for long periods as they tend machines and monitor the production process.

Physical strength. Food and tobacco processing workers should be strong enough to lift or move heavy boxes of ingredients, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.

Math skills. Workers need to know math skills in order to accurately mix specific quantities of ingredients.

The median annual wage for food and tobacco processing workers was $29,090 in May 2018.

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,590.

Median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in May 2018 were as follows:

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders $30,840
Food cooking machine operators and tenders 30,120
Food batchmakers 29,720
Food processing workers, all other 25,870

In May 2018, the median annual wages for food and tobacco processing workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Food manufacturing $30,030
Wholesale trade 25,950
Employment services 25,090
Food and beverage stores 25,050

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.

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Median annual wages, May 2018

Total, all occupations

$38,640

Production occupations

$35,070

Food and tobacco processing workers

$29,090

 

Overall employment of food and tobacco processing workers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2018 to 2028, slower than the average for all occupations.

Population growth and continuing consumer preference for convenience foods are expected to drive the demand for food, which will in turn require more food and tobacco processing workers to produce it. However, food manufacturing companies continue to pursue more automation in processing to raise productivity. For example, they use equipment that automatically weighs and mixes ingredients, requiring fewer processing workers. As these companies streamline production processes and implement more automation, they will need fewer workers to operate machines, and this may constrain occupational growth.

Job Prospects

The need to replace food and tobacco processing workers who leave the occupation should result in additional job openings each year. Those with related work experience in manufacturing will likely have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for food and tobacco processing workers, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Food and tobacco processing workers

268,700 274,000 2 5,300

Food and tobacco roasting, baking, and drying machine operators and tenders

51-3091 21,000 21,100 1 100 Get data

Food batchmakers

51-3092 163,800 167,000 2 3,200 Get data

Food cooking machine operators and tenders

51-3093 35,100 36,100 3 1,000 Get data

Food processing workers, all other

51-3099 48,900 49,800 2 900 Get data

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 2018

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

Associate’s degree $40,860

Bakers

Bakers mix ingredients according to recipes in order to make breads, pastries, and other baked goods.

No formal educational credential $26,520

Butchers

Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.

No formal educational credential $31,580

Cooks

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods.

See How to Become One $25,200

Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers.

No formal educational credential $23,730

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 $36,080

For more information about line workers and food safety, visit

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

For more information about the food industry, visit

Food Engineering

Grocery Manufacturers Association

O*NET

Food Batchmakers

Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders

Food Processing Workers, All Other

Food and Tobacco Roasting, Baking, and Drying Machine Operators and Tenders


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Food and Tobacco Processing Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/food-and-tobacco-processing-workers.htm (visited ).


 

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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