Butchers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 butcher Jobs

  • Field Service Representative - KASCO - San Jose, CA

    Other duties may be assigned. • Performs all maintenance and preventative maintenance, such as troubleshooting and repair on food processing

  • Line Cook - Cinepolis USA - Miamisburg, OH

    Set up and stocking stations with all necessary supplies • Prepare food for service (e.g. chopping vegetables, butchering meat, or preparing

  • Blending & Pack Off Specialist - Butcher & Packer Supply Company - Madison Heights, MI

    Handle materials including location and identification Familiar with a FIFO Inventory system preferred Pay close attention to detail Must be able

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What Butchers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.

Duties of Butchers

Butchers typically do the following:

  • Sharpen and adjust knives and cutting equipment
  • Receive, inspect, and store meat upon delivery
  • Cut, bone, 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
  • Keep inventory of meat and order meat supplies
  • 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 cut—during their shift.

Butchers use tools such as knives, grinders, or meat saws. They must follow sanitation standards while working and when cleaning equipment, countertops, and working areas in order to prevent meat contamination.

Some butchers run their own retail store. In these settings, they usually track inventory, order supplies, and perform other recordkeeping duties.

Work Environment for Butchers[About this section] [To Top]

Butchers hold about 139,000 jobs. The industries that employ the most butchers are as follows:

Grocery stores 73%
Specialty food stores 8
Animal slaughtering and processing 7

The work can be physically demanding, particularly for those who make repetitive cuts in processing plants. Butchers typically stand while cutting meat and must 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.

Injuries and Illnesses

Butchers use tools that can be dangerous, such as sharp knives and meat saws, and work in areas with slippery floors and surfaces. To reduce the risk of cuts and falls, workers wear protective clothing, such as cut-resistant gloves, heavy aprons, and nonslip footwear.

Butcher Work Schedules

Most butchers work full time. Butchers who work in grocery or retail stores may work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Workers in animal slaughtering and processing facilities may work shifts that start in the early morning or in the afternoon or evening.

Butchers who run their own meat shops often work many hours.

How to Become a Butcher[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Butchers near you!

Most butchers learn their skills through on-the-job training lasting more than a year. No formal education is required.

Butcher Education

There are no formal education requirements to become a butcher.

Butcher Training

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 learning 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. Those employed in retail stores are usually taught basic business operations, such as inventory control, meat buying, and recordkeeping. 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.

Important Qualities for Butchers

Concentration. Butchers must pay close attention to what they are doing in order to avoid injury and wasting meat.

Customer-service skills. Butchers who work in retail stores should be courteous, be able to answer customers’ questions, and fill orders to customers’ satisfaction.

Dexterity. Butchers use sharp knives and meat cutting equipment as part of their duties. Therefore, they must have good hand control in order to make proper cuts of meat that are the right size.

Physical stamina. Butchers spend hours on their feet while cutting, packaging, or storing meat.

Physical strength. Butchers should be strong enough to lift and carry heavy boxes of meat, which may weigh more than 50 pounds.

Butcher Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for butchers is $29,130. 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 $19,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,820.

The median annual wages for butchers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Grocery stores $29,160
Specialty food stores 27,320
Animal slaughtering and processing 27,050

Most butchers work full time. Butchers who work in grocery or retail stores may work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Workers in animal slaughtering and processing facilities may work shifts that start in the early morning or in the afternoon or evening.

Butchers who run their own meat shops often work many hours.

Job Outlook for Butchers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of butchers is projected to grow 5 percent through 2024, about as fast as 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.

However, meat processing plants continue to consolidate animal slaughtering and meat processing by preparing and packaging meat products in one place. As a result, employment of butchers in these facilities is projected to decline, since fewer workers may be needed to cut, trim, and package meats in these settings.

Butchers Job Prospects

Many butcher and meat cutter jobs, particularly those in processing plants, are physically demanding, with difficult working conditions. As a result, job opportunities are expected to be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.

Workers with several years of work experience, including training in various meat cutting techniques, should have the best job prospects as retail butchers.

Employment projections data for Butchers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Butchers and meat cutters 139,000 146,000 5 7,000


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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