Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.
What they do
Butchers typically do the following:
- Sharpen and adjust knives and cutting equipment
- Receive, inspect, and store meat upon delivery
- Cut, debone, or grind pieces of meat
- Weigh, wrap, and display meat or meat products
- Cut or prepare meats to specification or customers’ orders
- Store meats in refrigerators or freezers at the required temperature
- Clean equipment and work areas to maintain health and sanitation standards
Butchers cut and trim meat from larger, wholesale portions into steaks, chops, roasts, and other cuts. They then prepare meat for sale by performing various duties, such as weighing meat, wrapping it, and putting it out for display. In retail stores, they also wait on customers and prepare special cuts of meat upon request.
Butchers in meat-processing plants are also known as meat cutters. They may have a more limited range of duties than those working in a grocery store or specialty meat shop. Because they typically work on an assembly line, those in processing plants usually perform one specific function—a single type of cut—during their shift.
Butchers use knives, grinders, or meat saws. They follow sanitation standards while working and when cleaning equipment, countertops, and working areas in order to prevent meat contamination.
Butchers who run their own retail store also track inventory, order supplies, and perform other recordkeeping duties.
The work can be physically demanding, particularly for butchers who make repetitive cuts in processing plants. Butchers typically stand while cutting meat and often lift and move heavy carcasses or boxes of meat supplies.
Because meat must be kept at cool temperatures, butchers commonly work in cold rooms—typically around 40 degrees Fahrenheit—for extended periods.
Butchers must keep their hands and working areas clean to prevent contamination, and those working in retail settings must remain presentable for customers.
How to become a Butcher
Most butchers learn their skills through on-the-job training lasting more than a year. No formal education is required.
There are no formal education requirements for becoming a butcher.
Butchers typically learn their skills on the job, and the length of training varies considerably. Training for simple cutting may take only a few weeks. However, more complicated cutting tasks generally require training that may last from several months to more than a year.
Training for entry-level workers often begins by having the worker learn less difficult tasks, such as making simple cuts, removing bones, or dividing wholesale cuts into retail portions. Under the guidance of more experienced workers, trainees learn the proper use and care of tools and equipment. For example, they learn how to sharpen their knives and clean working areas and equipment.
Trainees also may learn how to shape, roll, and tie roasts; prepare sausage; and cure meat. Employees also receive training in food safety to minimize the risk of foodborne pathogens in meats.
Butchers who follow religious dietary guidelines for food preparation may be required to undergo more specialized training and certification before becoming endorsed by a religious organization to prepare meat.
The median annual wage for butchers was $32,500 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,630.
Employment of butchers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
The popularity of various meat products, such as sausages, cured meats, and specialty cuts, is expected to drive employment growth of butchers in retail stores, such as grocery and specialty food stores.
Similar Job Titles
Journeyman Meat Cutter, Meat Clerk, Meat Cutter, Meat Department Manager, Meat Manager, Meat Specialist, Meat Trimmer, Meat Wrapper, Seafood and Service Meat Manager
Cook, Institution and Cafeteria; Cook, Restaurant; Bartender; Combined Food Preparation and Serving Worker (Including Fast Food); Baker
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- North American Meat Institute - NAMI is a trade association that represents companies that process 95 percent of beef, pork, veal and 70 percent of turkey products in the US and their suppliers.
- The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union - This organization is a non-profit organization that believes in the power of ordinary people coming together to improve their lives and make a lasting difference for all working people.
Magazines and Publications
Whether they’re planning a grill out or bringing home a holiday roast, customers count on the skills of a butcher to prepare the meat they purchase. Butchers and meat cutters cut and trim meat into steaks, chops, and other cuts using knives, grinders, or meat saws. They prepare meat for sale— weighing it, wrapping it, and putting it on display. Butchers may serve customers directly. Butchers who run their own store often track inventory, order supplies, and perform other recordkeeping duties. In processing plants, these workers are known as meat, poultry and fish cutters and trimmers. Because they typically work on an assembly line, they usually perform a single cut repeatedly during their shift. These workers need to consistently follow procedures to meet safety and health standards. Butchers and meat cutters often stand for long periods, and usually work in cold rooms. Dexterity, strength, and stamina are also essential qualities in this field. There are typically no formal education requirements to become a butcher. They train on the job, learning simple cuts within a few weeks, and advancing to more complicated tasks over several months to a year. While most butchers work full time, shifts may be scheduled from early mornings to late evenings, and include weekends and holidays.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org