Could Robots Take Over In Meat Processing?

Turning beef cattle in to cuts of beef takes a lot of hands-on labor, and events of late have some people asking if robotics can be used more in meat plants?


“Now part of becoming a university professor I was the research manager for Smithfield Foods, and we tested a lot of that type of technology,” according to Ty Lawrence a professor at West Texas A&M. He acknowledged the idea of robots taking over for human workers at meat processing plants sounds cool, and may even sound easy to do, but, it’s not that simlple.


At a car plant, for example, each vehicle is the same: same size and shape, perfect for robotics. But in a beef plant each carcass is different: size, shape, weight, and an infinite number of variables.


“That the human is working through on a real time basis and I’m extremely skeptical that we have, that we are at enough robotic technology to remove more than maybe 10% of the labor force,” Lawrence added.


So, he noted, meat processing will likely, at this time, stay “a very labor-intensive, hands-on process.”


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