Silver Fern Farms has lifted its minimum pay rate by almost 10 per cent to help recruit and retain staff. The country’s largest meat processor will lift the minimum hourly rate at all Silver Fern Farm sites to $24 per hour, an increase of almost 10 per cent. The labour-intensive meat industry is short about 2000 workers, according to the Meat Industry Association which in August launched a ‘Meat your career’ campaign detailing the types of positions available at meat plants around the country from Kaitaia to Bluff. The industry directly employs more than 25,000 workers and generated $9.3 billion of exports last year. Silver Fern Farms’ new rate disproves any thoughts that the industry is low paying. The Meat Industry Association says school-leavers with no qualifications can earn between $40,000 to $50,000 a year in the sector, while skilled butchers earn close to $70,000 – not including overtime. Within four to five years a leading hand, supervising a small team, can earn up to $80,000 comparable to a primary school teacher or registered nurse.