Approximately 500,000 people work in the U.S. meat and poultry industry. Maintaining competitive wages and benefits is a key element in retaining these workers, and fulfilling the ongoing resource needs of the nation's meat packing/processing operations. As of 2009, the most recent year of data available, workers in meat and poultry plants averaged about $13.16/hour, and typically worked a 40 hour week. This wage compares favorably with a number of other occupations, and is nearly double the U.S. minimum wage. Benefits include health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, wellness programs, pension/401K plans, educational assistance, and other programs. As workforce needs are not expected to diminish in the industry, continued emphasis on providing competitive wages and benefits will remain an issue of great importance.