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In Their Words : The Story of BC Packers
Sackers filling herring meal bags
Sackers filling herring meal bags at Namu Cannery reduction plant in 1963. Notice the spool of twine on the sewing machine at left.
City of Richmond Archives 1985 4 268
Sackers filling herring meal bags A sacker running a full bag through a sewing machine A forklift driver moving herring meal

Grinding and Bagging

From the massive driers, the press cake was conveyed to high-speed grinders. It was ground into herring meal and fed into the bagging machine. The general consensus among reduction plant employees who worked in the fish meal end of the process was this: "It wasn't the best of jobs. It certainly wasn't a white-collar job. It was a dirty, rotten, stinking job and that was it." These were the men who spent their days in the hottest, loudest part of the plant, covered in herring dust.

The deafeningly loud grinders pulverized dried press cake into powder. Once reduced to a fine powder, the herring meal was ready for bagging. Every thirty seconds, 100 lbs. (over 45 kilograms) of meal flowed through the bagging machine and dumped into an insulated paper bag. Each was then zipped through an industrial sewing machine. For the ‘sackers' working there, speed was essential. "The meal just kept on filling up in the hopper," relates former sacker David Morisawa, "You couldn't sack it quick enough to catch up."

The sackers and sewers worked endlessly at the back of the driers – filling, sewing, moving and stacking the heavy herring meal bags. One former worker recalled it being "very noisy. No earplugs in those days and hot. The temperatures would be running about 250 – 300 degees." Another said that by the end of a 12-hour shift, "I was just saturated with this herring meal dust. You had to take a bath and even if you did take a bath you maybe take two baths." This sentiment was echoed by one former worker who said "If you worked in the reduction plant for extended periods of time the oils... the fish meal, and so on, gets right into your skin."

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