AI Is Helping Automate One of the World’s Most Gruesome Jobs

Gerson Freitas Jr and Isis Almeida

Bloomberg Businessweek

May 1, 2024

Chicken farm industrial line equipment

Advances in computer vision and machine learning allow robots to perform some of the high precision tasks required to butcher beef and chicken.

Remote-controlled droids herd cattle on the American Great Plains for agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. Robots prep shipments and stack pallets at meatpackers’ plants from coast to coast. And with poultry heavyweight Wayne-Sanderson Farms deploying one set of machines to vaccinate in-egg chicks at the start of their lives and another to eviscerate them several weeks later, US meat processors might look at first glance as if they’ve successfully pivoted from man to machine in one of the world’s most labor-intensive businesses.

But for all the strides processors of beef, pork and chicken have made bringing automation into their factories, mechanizing the tasks with the most direct impact on profits—slicing carcasses—has been much slower.