During butchering, the fish is prepared for canning by removing the head, tail, fins, and guts (or offal). In the beginning, butchering was done manually by highly-skilled men, usually Chinese, called the “butcher gang” who worked at wooden tables. With very sharp knives they cut off the heads and fins and split the fish belly to clean out the guts (or offal). The tail was then cut off and discarded with the head, fins and guts. A group of thirty hand-butchers were needed to prepare enough fish for a canning line.
The butchering process changed dramatically with the introduction of the of the E.A. Smith Butchering Machine. Able to process 1-2 fish per second, it quickly replaced the manual butchering crew. Now the entire process could be completed with only one operator and a few assistants.