A slaughterhouse “knocker” swings a mallet at cows heads as they enter the Austin, Minnesota meatpacking plant (1941) [965 x 728]
Library of Congress specifies that this was taken in a plant owned by Hormel Foods. The company still operates in Austin, Minnesota, though with a new plant built in 1982 which exclusively produces pork. This new plant was the subject of a 1985 labor strike (one of the longest in the state's history) over wages, as they were reduced by the company in an attempt to stay competitive. This was due to the 1980s and 90s seeing intense competition over market control, resulting in a few large companies producing the majority of the nation's meat and many smaller ones going out of business.Also, the ancient practice of using a mallet to knock out cattle was phased out starting in the 1950s with the introduction of the pneumatic bolt gun, which made the process more efficient and led to faster (disassembly) speeds.
The kill floor at a slaughter house can really take a toll on a person. I have a friend that spent his early 20's working for a pork producer we have here in Alberta. He spent the day walking around with one of those piston forehead things just killing pigs all day. Dude is now vegan and has trouble even being around livestock.
So the guy just hits the cow on the head and it’s done?
One of the many things my old man did in that plant was tear the hides off of those cattle. Man, before machines were around to do most of the dirty work, men were required to do some pretty fucked up shit. I mean, they still are, but a lot of it is automated. Connected to that plant is QPP and they basically kill the pigs and send them next door to Hormel. A few years ago, people on the line there were coming down with a strange ailment that stemmed from inhaling vaporized pig brains.I'm from Austin and have watched that town evolve over the years. It's a company town that wouldn't exist without Hormel. At one time, a man could send his 5 kids to college, by working at the plant. The effects of the strike still linger in the Increases in crime and family's that no longer speak to one another.
Austin, Minnesota is also home to one of the coolest museums I've been to, the Spam Museum.
This was considered to be a very skilled position, also referred to as a “stunner”. If the cow was still alive when it was slaughtered, lactic acid would be released into the meat, thereby affecting the taste and affecting the price point. It was also far less humane to slaughter live animals. Men who could kill the animal in a single strike were highly sought after and well compensated for their skill.
For those wondering how this process works, I've included a description below. Nowadays, they use a stun gun rather than the hammer.First, you unload the cows from trucks and into a narrow corridor so the animal cannot turn around. Then you slide a sort of gate closed behind the cow's head to lock his or her head in place. Then you take a stun gun and discharge it on the cow's head. It forces a metal rod through the cow's head and into his or her brain.[](https://youtu.be/isj-IYeCbnI?t=3m0s)This is supposed to either kill the cow, or render it unconscious. An industry study from 2015 suggested that 1/5 slaughterhouses could not reliably render the cow unconscious on the first shot, with about 1/10 slaughterhouses being deemed "not acceptable" in their effectiveness.[](https://www.grandin.com/survey/2015.restaurant.audits.html) If it still has the strength left after the first hit, the cow will start thrashing around in an attempt to fight for his or her life. They will then be hit with the stun gun again, although sometimes workers suffocate them or use other unsanctioned methods to kill them or force them to lose consciousness.[](https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2191813/Revealed-Shocking-undercover-video-captures-inhumane-butchering-cattle-slaughterhouse-In-N-Out-Burger-chain.html)The next stage is for the cow to be suspended upside-down by their hind legs and have their neck cut to bleed to death. The cow is supposed to be dead or unconscious by this point, but a certain number of cows are still conscious while this happens.[](https://youtu.be/LQRAfJyEsko?t=55m17s)[](https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/04/10/they-die-piece-by-piece/f172dd3c-0383-49f8-b6d8-347e04b68da1/) The cow is then left suspended for a while to bleed out.I will allow the rest of the process to be described as in Jonathan Safran Foer's book, *Eating Animals*.>The cow should now be [a] carcass, which will move along the line to a "head-skinner," which is exactly what it sounds like - a stop where the skin is peeled off the head of the animal. The percentage of cattle still conscious at this stage is low but not zero. At some plants it is a regular problem - so much so that there are informal standards about how to deal with these animals. Explains a worker familiar with such practices, "A lot of times the skinner finds out an animal is still conscious when he slices the side of its head and it starts kicking wildly. If that happens, or if a cow is already kicking when it arrives at their station, the skinners shove a knife into the back of its head to cut the spinal cord." > >This practice, it turns out, immobilizes the animal but does not render it insensible. I can't tell you how many animals this happens to, as no one is allowed to properly investigate. We only know that it is an inevitably by-product of the present slaughter system and that it will continue to happen. > >After the head-skinner, the carcass (or cow) proceeds to the "leggers," who cut off the lower portions of the animal's legs. "As far as the ones that come back to life," says a line worker, "it looks like they're trying to climb the walls....And when they get to the leggers, well, the leggers don't want to wait to start working on the cow until somebody gets down there to reknock it. So they just cut off the bottom part of the leg with the clippers. When they do that, the cattle go wild, just kicking in every direction." > >The animal then proceeds to be completely skinned, eviscerated, and cut in half, at which point it finally looks like the stereotyped image of beef...."[](https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/jonathan-safran-foer/eating-animals/9780316086646/)A highly sanitized version of this process made for public viewing [here](https://youtu.be/z8gyGkIVdKY). You should not view it assuming this is what things look like inside an actual slaughterhouse, but it gives you a general idea of the process.**References**[](https://youtu.be/isj-IYeCbnI?t=3m0s) *Australian Livestock Export Industry - Slaughter with Stunning Training Video*. Australian Livestock Exports, 2015. [https://youtu.be/isj-IYeCbnI](https://youtu.be/isj-IYeCbnI). Accessed 17 Apr 2021.[](https://www.grandin.com/survey/2015.restaurant.audits.html) "2015 Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter Audits in U.S. Federally Inspected Beef Slaughter Plants." *Dr. Temple Grandin's Website*. Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, 2015. [https://www.grandin.com/survey/2015.restaurant.audits.html](https://www.grandin.com/survey/2015.restaurant.audits.html). Accessed 17 Apr 2021.[](https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2191813/Revealed-Shocking-undercover-video-captures-inhumane-butchering-cattle-slaughterhouse-In-N-Out-Burger-chain.html) Nye, James. "Revealed: Shocking undercover video captures inhumane butchering of cattle at slaughterhouse for US burger chain." *Daily Mail*, 22 Aug 2012. [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2191813/Revealed-Shocking-undercover-video-captures-inhumane-butchering-cattle-slaughterhouse-In-N-Out-Burger-chain.html](https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2191813/Revealed-Shocking-undercover-video-captures-inhumane-butchering-cattle-slaughterhouse-In-N-Out-Burger-chain.html). Accessed 17 Apr 2021.[](https://youtu.be/LQRAfJyEsko?t=55m17s) *Dominion*. Directed by Chris Delforce, performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Sia et al, 2018.[](https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/04/10/they-die-piece-by-piece/f172dd3c-0383-49f8-b6d8-347e04b68da1/) Warrick, Jo. "They Die Piece by Piece." *Washington Post*, 10 Apr 2001. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/04/10/they-die-piece-by-piece/f172dd3c-0383-49f8-b6d8-347e04b68da1/](https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/04/10/they-die-piece-by-piece/f172dd3c-0383-49f8-b6d8-347e04b68da1/). Accessed 17 Apr 2021.[](https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/jonathan-safran-foer/eating-animals/9780316086646/) Foer, Jonathan Safran. *Eating Animals*. Back Bay Books, 2009, p.233**EDIT**: Changed one word, fixed some spelling and minor grammar mistakes.
My great great grandfather was a slaughter house worker back in the early 1910’s. My grandpa told me about the time he went to work with him during the summer and while his dad smashed pigs heads in with a hammer he was supposed to roll the bodies to a ramp and slide them down. Said it was the worst thing he’d ever seen but his dad did that job for 30 years.
Damn, the slaughter process just awful - previously and now.
Czernobog nods knowingly and has some more vodka.
If you’re ever in Los Angeles drive by the farmer John plant in Vernon. That smell is something that makes you take another route.
My first job was working in a slaughter house in Villanueva, Guatemala when I was 11 years old. This was 1991. The process for slaughtering a cow was as follows: the cow was herded single file into an outside room. The room did not have a ceiling and there was an elevated platform on the side where the person who was going to incapacitate the cow would stand. The person would grab a long heavy iron pole that had a huge sharp blade at the tip. They would then plunge it into the base of the cows neck, which would paralyze and blind the cow. One of the walls would actually flip open into the first part of the slaughtering process. A mechanical pulley with a chain attached to it was wrapped around the cows hind legs. It would pull the incapacitated cow out from the room until the cow was suspended face down from the ceiling. Someone would then walk in and stab the cow in the heart until it bled to death. It was the most brutal act I had ever seen and I was conflicted about it for a while. It was part of the family business and at the time, I didn’t really have a choice but to work there. I was paid 20 quetzales a week which at the time was about 5 American dollars a week.
They could at least let the cows flip a coin, then keep it if they win.
I wonder if the guy in the photo ever hitch-hiked and got picked up by some visiting students in a VW van as they searched for one girl's family property? And then exited said van after slashing someone's arm with a straight razor?Or maybe that only happens in Texas.
This immediately makes me think of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the Hitchhiker lectures Franklin and his friends about how the new-fangled bolt gun is no good, the cows died better with the hammer.
My grandfather had this awful job. He soon quit cause he told us it gave him horrible nightmares. My grandfather was a tough ass man but this was too much.
Apparently some folks in this thread haven’t seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Great timing! I am visiting my parents in Austin MN right now. My dad just retired from Hormel Foods last month. Thanks for the photo!
In all seriousness, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the respectful debate about a subject that can draw very strong emotions. Tip of the cap to all.“The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair was required reading when I was in school, and it was a bit shocking to read. It addresses immigrant worker abuse, slaughter house conditions and the general state of affairs in the meatpacks industry in early 1900’s Chicago. Open my young eyes to the fact that what we eat come at much more that a monetary price.I eat meat. I am a hunter. I hunt to be connected to my food, to understand what it means to have harvested an animal and the emotions that entails. I respect the animals I persue more than most would believe. I study their biology, spend countless hours in the wilderness observing them and trying to understand how to live in nature, and during a small portion of that time, chase them with lethal intent.When these animals meet their demise in nature, it is rarely a peaceful event. I’ve come upon wounded animals (both from hunters and battle with other forest critters), half eaten carcasses, and sick animals awaiting the inevitable. To be out in nature, as an active participant in this, it floods me with emotions. Happy, sad, reverence, awe, fear, joy, grief, the list goes on.Anyway, this has made me all the more conscious of what I eat and where it comes from. My family buys a cow from a local rancher every year, that is split with two other families. Pasture raised, happy animals that I drive by and see out in the fields regularly. They live a great life with one bad day. They’re processed at the farm, by a local butcher. I took my son (8) this year to pick up the heart and liver to make into sausage. He saw them processing carcasses, and had a bunch of questions. I was happy to have the discussion, and he understands that dinner doesn’t come without great cost.As a species we’ve become to detached from where our food comes from. And I feel this feeds to a bigger problem of rural/urban divide. Not all ranchers are mega agricultural feed lot producers. Not all city dwellers are militant vegans.Let’s all just try and be mindful of what we’re eating, where it can from, and how much we really need.Cheers!
bruh, a good blackbean burger is delicious and digests infinitely better. maybe a couple extra human farts, but no methane.
What a brutal job. Yea knocked 600 heads today babe. Pretty tired. What’s for dinner? Beef?? Yum!
What's your job? Oh bonking cows,
I eat meat, and I fully admit I'm a hypocritical asshole who cannot handle watching animals being killed to provide my food.
No unseeing this. Wish the image was blurred, I would have passed right by with that title.