Posted on: December 11, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Adam Yousif, COM 101 Student

For Joseph Jawad, waking up usually consisted of the same routine: wash up and brush teeth, drink coffee, then go to the cattle and lamb stalls to pick the ones that will be slaughtered.

The sight of blood splattered on the kitchen table and scraps of meat everywhere has been typical since he was in diapers. For more than 40 years, this has been Jawad’s life and passion.

When he was 4 years old, his father would let him lead the cows into the slaughterhouse to be slaughtered.

Seeing the cycle of life and death from a young age has made him appreciative and considerate of the entire process. Not only does he love his job, but he truly cares about the animals being slaughtered to provide for his family. If there’s one thing he knows, it’s that a tough life is better than no life.

As part of a course themed around empathy, students in Lisa Couch’s COM 101 write profiles allowing readers to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

Growing up poor in a family of seven children meant countless struggles. After getting his first job with his father at age 8, he was expected to help support his family. He credits the physical and mental labor of caring for the animals and the facility for building his bulletproof work ethic.

The poverty was challenging, and the intense labor meant long work days and little time for school or sleep. Coupled with moving to a new country for a fresh start, the challenges he faced at such a young age are unimaginable. Through it all, he constantly affirmed to himself, “Life is hard, but it’s always better than the alternative.”

Jawad comes off as strikingly intimidating. His long gray beard and mustache complement his 6’2” stature. Rarely will he be wearing anything other than a polo with the top two buttons undone, tucked tightly into his khakis.

Immigrating to New York from Palestine in the 1980s when he was only 10 was what he described as the biggest challenge in his life. Even though he remembers feeling lost in his new surroundings and constantly being bullied because of his accent, he had the drive to make it in America and prove himself to his father and family.

He recalls a memory of being bullied while waiting for the bus: “They knew I couldn’t speak good English and defend myself; they thought it would be funny to make fun of me for it. They called us peasants when they found out my dad was a butcher.”

Despite daily experiences like this one, there wasn’t much Jawad felt he could do except suck it up.

“I would drag my feet against the concrete while walking home, from all the built-up anger,” he said. “The rubber would start peeling, and my parents would get mad because the shoes were still new.”

Through this struggle, he developed the resilience he would need to thrive in his career and life.

While most of us started working our first jobs in fast food or retail, Jawad was doing what he calls “seeing an animal’s life through.”

The first animal I slaughtered was a bull. It broke my heart, but I knew this animal would feed many people.”

Joseph Jawad

He started working in the meatpacking industry very early on. Each day he would awake at 5 a.m. to be ready to start his shift at 6. Though he says it was tough getting up so early, he was grateful for the opportunities it afforded him to learn English and gain valuable life skills like time management and discipline.

“The first animal I slaughtered was a bull,” he said. “It broke my heart, but I knew this animal would feed many people.”

Despite the cruel nature of the job, he learned an essential quality: the ability to show compassion toward others even when you’re faced with adversity yourself.

His most significant influence was his father’s ability to see the value in everything.

“There was always food on the table…even if it was just vegetables,” he said.

Seeing his father’s grit inspired him to continue down the path of meatpacking despite the challenges. He knew he wanted to master his craft for his future and his family.

“You have to believe in yourself,” he said. “You have to have confidence in your abilities. Because if you’re confident in your abilities, people will be confident in your abilities.”

Today he is even more successful than he ever dreamed possible, but he’s never forgotten where he came from or how fortunate he is to have had the opportunities he has had in his life. He now owns and operates USDA-certified slaughterhouses in New York and New Jersey, where he tries to give back to the community as much as possible.

“I would experience the hardships I went through to get to where I am today a hundred times over,” he says.

Looking back on his past, though, he acknowledges that there were times he doubted himself and had to overcome those challenges with hard work and perseverance.

When asked about his future endeavors, all he could think was, “It is all going to my kids. I want to give them what I didn’t have, so they don’t need to live how I lived.”