What do butchers do?
Butchers are responsible for turning large pieces of meat into retail-ready portions that can be purchased by consumers and restaurants. Not all of the meat is turned into steaks and chops, some is ground, tied into roasts or turned into sausages. These all require training to execute each task correctly.
Butchers usually work in cold, refrigerated rooms where the meat is stored. The combination of knives, slippery floors, and other sharp tools makes the work dangerous with much higher injury rates than most other occupations, though the rate of injury is on the decline. Being a butcher requires patience and careful attention to detail. This job is no joke: if you can't keep a steady hand, you just might lose it.
How much do butchers make?
The average salary for all butchers is about $13.50 per hour. Experienced butchers at high-end retailers can earn up to $21.50 per hour. The days of the butcher shop have come and gone, most work for grocery stores or wholesale businesses that sell meat to restaurants, or separate it into smaller pieces called "retail cuts."
What are the education requirements?
Almost all butchers start their careers in training programs, where they learn how to use the machinery and the job skills required to be successful. Most highly trained butchers train for a year or two before they are considered "fully trained." It's not just about cutting meat up, either. During training butchers learn to make sausage, cure meat, roll and tie roasts and how to keep the food safe and clean during the process.
Career paths for butchers
Because there is no official certification process for butchers or meat cutters, the career path remains somewhat undefined. Many butchers move into shift lead or department head roles especially those who work for large retail chains. Others may opt for the entrepreneurial tract and choose to open their own businesses or wholesaling companies.
The future of butchers
The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) expects a very slow increase in butcher positions over the 2008-2018 decade. Any new growth will likely be in processing plants, as more and more large chains and restaurants opt for outsourcing their meat cutting and butchery.
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