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Thanksgiving Rush For Turkeys Putting Poultry Workers At Risk

KCBS_740SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- Every year, many of us sit down to a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day.  But have you ever wondered how that bird made it to the table?

You may be surprised to learn how stressful and how great the potential for injury is when it comes to processing turkeys, where workers can be overwhelmed by a fast conveyer belt.

"The image that comes to mind is Lucy. That's poultry work normally. You're standing on a line, birds are flying by you, you're making the same identical slices over and over again," Gabriel Thompson with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute told KCBS.

Thompson says that before Thanksgiving, it gets more intense.

"To meet that rush, some plants, one of the plants, the Butterball plant that I visited in Arkansas, they have a period called fresh, that lasts about 50 days where workers don't get a single day off," Thompson said.

Workers on the debone line may be faced with 55 turkeys per minute on conveyor belts.  All of the normal dangers associated with poultry work get ramped up.

"What determines how fast the line moves is food safety, not worker safety," Thompson said.

Thompson says there's evidence repetitive stress injuries to hands and wrists are under-reported.

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