Germany and Denmark are among the world's largest exporters of meat products. Two decades ago their labour markets were similar, but since then they have diverged significantly. The industry in Denmark has maintained high wages and good working conditions, while in Germany there has been a rapid growth in precarious employment, with widespread use of subcontracted and posted migrant workers. We argue that the key explanation for this radical difference is the power position of the trade unions, which also affects how employers position themselves. We show how trade union power embedded in the local and sectoral industrial relations systems influences the wages and working conditions in German and Danish slaughterhouses.