Life

Best Job in the World: 8 Hours at a Fish Packing Plant

"The smell could best be described as rotting flesh mixed with that amazing salty fishy smell, but majorly amplified..."
salmon in store
sergeyryzhov vi getty

Welcome back to Best Job in the World: an almost-weekly almanac containing tales of the most depraved, disgusting and downright cursed workplaces you have experienced.

Like a story time, a show-n-tell, or maybe just a good old-fashioned review: we’re here to provide you with an insight into the weirdest jobs goin’ round. And my, are there plenty.

Sam: Fishy Business

I still can’t believe I worked for this place.

I was actually doing the whole van lifer thing in Canada for a while and started to run short on funds. I decided I should get a job for a short while so I could move on to another town. It just so happened to be the first ad I saw when searching the web: a fish packaging plant, [name redacted]. They contacted me after I responded to the ad within an hour or so. I had an interview that very day and started work the next. 

Advertisement

It was short and sweet. When I realised the level of disgusting taking place, I made sure to quit the same day I started. I imagine they have a high turnover rate.

I was under the impression they had boats coming in, dropping off freshly caught salmon, y’know, being located in a harbour warehouse and all. But it was just frozen boxes. 

The smell could best be described as rotting flesh mixed with that amazing salty fishy smell but majorly amplified, and a hit of wood smoke from the smoking process. It was unbearable, so strong my stomach was turning. It took everything in me to not vomit. 

We used second-hand embalming tables (you know, the tables they lay dead people on) to lay out boxes of frozen Alaskan salmon. I did not recognise what the tables were at the time, but when I asked them where they got the weird tables, another employee explained they were embalming tables, which blew my mind: Why not just buy metal food prep tables? 

They had gotten a “good deal” on them from the nearby morgue…. Gross. 

My boss would dump out a box of fish and if some landed on the floor he’d just pick it up and toss it back onto the table.

I asked if we should wash them at least and he just shrugged. 

That was a bad start. 

Later in the day I was asked to re-label and clean some packaging, where I sat in a room with expired salmon packages, gently opening them and removing the expired salmon then whipping the labels and expiration dates off and sanitising the inside of the bag. The smell of the fish in this process was unbearable.

Advertisement

I walked into the office at my lunch break and handed in my apron and hair net. This place was disgusting, the level of how clean they kept their building was disgusting, using embalming tables was disgusting, ain’t nothing worth the $13 an hour at the time.

After that I went back to doing odd jobs for random people I’d meet while busking. I’d way rather rake leaves or help build a fence anyways. And often for a lot better pay and free food.

Thanks for your time reading my gross story.

Got a weird or worst or wildest job experience? We’d love to hear it. Contact Ari at arielle.richards@gmail.com or via the social links below.

Follow Arielle on Instagram and Twitter.

Read more from VICE Australia and subscribe to our weekly newsletter, This Week Online.