You Can Make Over $110K Per Year Doing This Crazy Job

In the age of the celebrity chef, the thousands of men and women working behind the scenes in the food industry often go unnoticed. For every Michelin-starred tasting menu or drool-inducing Instagram feed, there are plenty of thankless jobs and unsung heroes. Food is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The chefs, restaurateurs, and food stylists involved are just the tip of iceberg when it comes to putting food on the table. There are also goatherds, fish scalers, and turkey inseminators ensuring that dinner makes it onto your plate.

If you’re considering a career in food, think outside the box (and the bun) and consider one of these odd jobs. Perhaps your social media skills could be put to use on a dairy farm. Imagine all the cheese you could Instagram!
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Turkey Inseminator

With the high demand in November for these large birds, someone’s got to help them along. Turkey sperm is collected and stored at a controlled temperature and a special machine dispenses the correct amount to inject — by hand — into the females. A livestock inseminator might also be called a “Barn Technician” whose other jobs might include euthanizing sick animals and cleaning habitats.

Salary: Average $40,000 and as low as $18,000.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Geoduck Harvester

Pronounced “gooey duck” these massive, phallic clams are a trendy delicacy in China and can go for a few hundred dollars in high-end restaurants. Native to Washington State, Geoducks are harvested from several feet of mud in Puget Sound. It can take hours to excavate a geoduck from the muck, but commercial fishing crews have it down to a science.

Salary: According to the Seattle Times, prices have soared due to demand in China. With wholesale prices at $10-$20 per pound, a single diver can bring home $5,000 on a very good day.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Sensory Panelist (A.K.A. Frozen Food Taster)

This thankless job requires little skill and a lot of love for fish sticks. This role is often hired by a frozen food brand as a litmus test for quality. Professional food tasters must be very good at describing what they taste in easy-to-understand terms. A sensory panelist is part quality control and part professional Yelp reviewer.

Salary: Compensation is usually per hour and starts at $10.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Mashgiach

If you want to serve kosher food, you're going to need a Mashgiach. This is a very specific person trained in kosher law that must be present at any kosher establishment to ensure that the laws of Kashrut are meticulously observed. A mashgiach is part biblical scholar and part holy man.

Salary: In New York City, a Mashgiach at a kosher restaurant makes about $20 per hour to start, though a seasoned mashgiach can make up to $100,000 a year.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Goatherd

This biblical-sounding job still exists. Someone’s got to bring the goats back from the pasture to be milked for your organic goat cheese. Officially called a “Dairy Goat Herd Manager,” a herd's main job is to tend to the health and safety of the goats, but other duties might include milking and cheesemaking.

Salary: Commensurate upon experience, average: $30,000.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Tea Scout

The best green and black teas are often found in the high-altitude Himalayas, where adventurous businessmen make deals with local farmers for the perfect first flush tea leaves. A tea scout’s official title might be “Supply Chain Director” or “International Operations Manager” and he or she must understand and be able to work around complicated international trade laws, understand the local dialects of farmers, and have a well-trained nose for fragrant tea leaves.

Salary: Around $60,000, but much higher depending on education and special skills.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Dog Food Taster

Until we come across a real-life Dr. Doolittle, we’ll have to rely on our own species to tell us that the food we produce for our pets tastes great. It’s not as gross as it sounds, since dog food is often made with high-quality meat, fish, and vegetables and is regulated by the F.D.A.

Salary: Starts at around $30,000 and goes up to $117,000.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Truffle Hunting Dog Trainer

Pigs have typically been the go-to animals to sniff out these prized fungi, but recently, dogs have taken over. These dogs need to be trained and cared for by someone with deep knowledge of truffle hunting. Think your dog has an elevated palette? Enroll he or she in the training class at the Oregon Truffle Festival and compete in the Joriad.

Salary: Truffle hunting dogs and their owners make a living selling their foraged fungi for around $500 per pound or $40 per ounce (an ounce will last a few dishes).
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Fish Scaler

Before those gleaming King Salmon filets make it to your grocery store, someone has to break down a huge animal. A fish scaler is employed even before the fish makes it to the fishmonger, because descaling is a very messy task that requires a firm hand and a good waste management system. In addition to de-scaling, you’ll likely have to cut filets.

Salary: $20,000-$30,000.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo.
Creamery Assistant

Assistant to the cheesemaker, this role requires extreme attention to detail, a lot of scrubbing and “performing affinage” (cheese ripening). Also called a "cheesemaking assistant," a creamery assistant must love the idea of spending long hours inside a stinky, damp cheese cave. However the perks are wonderful: free cheese tastings every day.

Salary: $25,000-$30,000.
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