by Max Brantley
Fine story in the New York Times today about the Butterball plant in Ozark, which, with another plant in the state, produces about a third of the zillion turkeys to be eaten in the U.S. this week. Veterans of the turkey bagging line give their free holiday turkey to relatives, opting for ham, after watching thousands pass before them every day. The article quotes women who've worked on the line for 17 years (now making $11.40 an hour):
It is not easy work. Turkeys need to be stunned and dispatched and gutted. Someone has to cut the oil gland out of the tail. Necks and gizzards and livers have to be cleaned and stuffed into a cavity. During a six-week period that begins in October, the line runs seven days a week to process fresh turkey. It is a period people in town simply refer to as “fresh,” and it is grueling.
“It’s a long battle when we’re working fresh, but I at least got some bills paid and Christmas money,” Mrs. Farmer said. “I just sit there and hum and sing and talk to my friend Willie. We get through it together.”