To become a Butcher requires patience and careful attention to detail. To discover if this career is for you, take one of our free quizzes.
You can work anywhere, from the meat counter of your local supermarket selling sausage for the barbecue to working with wholesalers to supply restaurants with top cuts of steak. On average, butchers make around $13.50 per hour. You’ll have to be at least 18 to be a butcher, and most butchers work for grocery stores and wholesalers.
For becoming a cutter or butcher, there is actually not a formal education, and there also no specific requirements or prerequisites to becoming a cutter or butcher. Most meat cutters and butchers will learn the required skills and knowledge via hands-on and on-the-job training. They typically are learning their competencies at work, and the length of their training may vary considerably. Check out if this field may be right for you and go to our free career quiz!
The training they need to perform simple cutting tasks may last just a couple of days, but they will normally require a few months of on-the-job training to be able to perform more demanding and complicated cutting tasks. Butchers at retail stores require more training which will usually take one to two years. Today, we see an increased requirement that applicants for entry-level positions have earned a high school or GED test credential.
Entry level workers usually start with some easier tasks, for example removing bones, making simple cuts, or cutting wholesale technical parts up into usual retail portions. Trainees and apprentices will be trained by experienced workers about proper use of tools and equipment, and how to best take care of these valuable things.
They will often also learn the way to roll and tie roasts, to cure meats, and how to prepare a variety of sausages. Butcher trainees working in the retail business will normally also be taught the basics of business operation, for example, record keeping, inventory control, and where and how to best buy meat.
Butchers and cutters will also get education and training in food safety and how to keep their environments clean, sanitized, or even sterilized, because of growing concerns about food-borne pathogens. Butchers who are required to follow religious food preparation guidelines and directives may also need to undergo lengthy apprenticeships and certification processes.
Butchers and cutters must be continuously focused and they must always pay the closest attention to the things they do in order to prevent and avoid waste of product, injury, or contamination. Butchers working in the retail industry must also be courteous, know how to answer questions by customers, and be able to fill their orders to full satisfaction.
Cutters and butchers are using meat cutting tools and sharp knives, so they are required to have excellent control of their hands. If that’s not the case they are not capable of making proper cuts. They spend long hours standing on their feet, so they must be strong, and be able to carry and lift heavy meat boxes, often weighing 50 pounds.
Meat needs to be kept at specific low temperatures, so these workers need to work in cold rooms. The temperature must be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, so they must be able to physically deal with these circumstances. Meat cutters and butchers, in particular, those who are responsible for filling customers’ orders in specialty meat stores and groceries, are required to keep their work areas and their hands absolutely clean in order to prevent meat or cross contamination and to look acceptable and presentable to clients.
The majority of cutters and butchers are full-time employed. Those butchers who are employed in retail stores or groceries will likely work in early morning or late evening shifts, and they usually also work on weekends and holidays. Meat cutters that are employed in the animal slaughtering industry or at processing facilities will usually also be working in early morning, afternoon, or night shifts. It goes without saying that butchers who operate their own (smaller) meat shops, will often be working long hours to keep their businesses healthy.
In 2013, there were some 137,000 professional butchers and meat cutters working in America, and of all these jobs, around 72 percent can be found in supermarkets and grocery stores, while 6 percent of all these jobs were positions in the animal slaughtering and processing industry. The work of butchers and meat cutters can at times be physically pretty demanding, especially for individuals who are making repetitive cuts at processing plants. To that comes that meat cutters and butchers usually need to stand up all day and that they frequently need to move or lift heavy carcasses and boxes containing meat supplies.
Working conditions of butchers and meat cutters vary of course by size and type establishment where they are employed. In bigger retail establishments they usually are working in large rooms that are equipped with conveyors, power tools, and machines, while at smaller retail markets, these professionals may also be working in a room behind or at the meat counter.
To avoid and prevent viral, bacterial, and cross infections, their work areas need to be kept absolutely clean and sanitized. Butchers and cutters frequently work in damp, cold settings, and the temperature, in combination with the fact that they usually are required to stand for a long time and carry out physically demanding work, makes their work very tiring.
Cold and damp working floors are increasing the risk of slips or falls. Bad cuts, sometimes even leading to amputation, may easily happen in case they don’t use their cleavers, knives, or power tools properly, and cutters and butchers are more likely to get injured than most workers in other industries. In order to reduce the risk of falls and cuts, meat cutters and butchers are required to be wearing protective clothing, for example, heavy aprons, non-slip footwear, and cut-resistant gloves.
The employment opportunities of cutters and butchers are not expected to grow much during the next decade, while other industrial sectors will experience a lot more growth, but because more and more people nowadays are demanding partially prepared or pre-cut, easy-to-prepare meat products, cutters and butchers will always be needed to take care of that.
The increasing popularity of specific meat products, for example, cured meats, sausages, and specialty cuts will ensure that the demand for these professionals in specialty stores and groceries will definitely not decrease as well. The U.S. BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) indicated that in 2014 the average annual wage for meat cutters and butchers was around $29,200, though there are significant regional differences and education and experience also play an important role.