top of page

A Day in a Food Factory: My Summer Job Experience

Greg Devine


People working in a Apple factory

Want your article or story on our site? Contact us here

With university over until the autumn, I thought I should look for a summer job to earn some money for my next term. My friend works at a recruitment agency, so naturally, I approached him for help. 

It’s fair to say the job he found wasn’t for me.

I was pre-warned about the job before I started. My friend described it as ‘easy, if not soul destroying’. I’d have to agree with that. 

The job was in a food factory, for a company that makes hummus and egg-related products. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what goes on in these big factories; and, being an inquisitive person, I was relatively excited. At 6am, I arrived at the office to be told I would be in ‘high care’. This meant I’d need full safety gear—hairnet, gloves, a massive coat that covered everything but my face, and wellington boots. In truth, seeing the amount of PPE I had to wear was quite reassuring. Dealing with packaged food, of course you’d want to ensure that no hair or germs can get inside.

After donning our PPE, us new starters were paired with an experienced worker who showed us what to do. I was paired with an older Romanian gentleman. Most of the workers in the factory came from Romania originally. 

Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

We were going to be using a big mixing machine to make egg mayonnaise, both with and without bacon. Big metal bins full of boiled eggs, bacon and mayonnaise were brought to us throughout the day and we’d load these into the huge mixing machine. The product would come out the other side, into a smaller metal bin that would then be wheeled away to fridges, ready to be packed into each relevant supermarket’s packaging. 

I made egg mayonnaise for three huge supermarkets that day. (They may or may not have been supermarkets starting with T, M and A, with their respective blue, yellow and green packaging.) There was no difference in the egg-mayonnaise-making process for all three of those supermarkets; the same ingredients and mixture were used each time, yet each of these brands charge different prices for the exact same thing. There wasn’t even a change in the seasoning!

By break time, at 9am, I already knew it wasn’t for me. The job I was doing didn’t really need two people, which meant that the only thing I had to do was push the egg mayonnaise from one side of the factory to the other. I did this every 20 minutes or so, but had very little to do for the rest of the day. 

There was also something that freaked me out about the factory—I certainly would’ve felt very uneasy being in there alone. There was no natural light or even doors that led directly outside. I understand why this has to be the case—to ensure the food is protected. Everything was designed so that the whole place could be quickly sprayed with water and sent down the drain. It made complete sense, and it actually makes me trust factory food much more than I did.

With so little to do, I went off to explore…which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to undercover journalism! I was in awe of the machine that shook the shell from the hard-boiled eggs. I couldn’t comprehend how it didn’t damage the inside of the egg, but it did a fine job, and it was very quick. The eggs were then washed and sent down a conveyor belt—any bad ones were thrown in the bin whilst the good ones were put in the huge, metal containers, ready to be made into egg mayonnaise or simply sold as they were. The mayonnaise was also created in a machine, but I didn’t get to see it being made. I did see workers (using another machine) pumping the mayonnaise into huge metal bins for use in the egg mayonnaise spread, though.

Factories are meant to be places of high efficiency, as this increases their profit margins; in truth, it didn’t seem that efficient to me. For a place that complained about being understaffed, there didn’t seem to be that much to do. Maybe my experience was a one off, but there seemed to be an awful lot of standing around waiting for the next task to become available. Some machines had up to eight staff working on them when three would’ve been fine. That said, I hope they don’t decide to reduce the number of staff—people need jobs. Many of the workers there had left their home countries to start a new life in England; factories provide an opportunity for them to make a much better income than if they were at home supporting their families.

Factory work is not for everyone. I struggled with the lack of tasks and the repetitive nature of the work, but for other people it would suit them perfectly. I think some Brits turn their nose up at working in a factory when it’s a decent job to have. It pays the bills, which, for many people, is all that matters.

bottom of page