Have you ever wondered how those perfectly cut stakes end up on your table? Or who is in charge of making those amazing sausages you’ve been buying for a year now? Sometimes butchers can be seen cutting the meat and even selling it in supermarkets or profile stores, while there are still enough professionals who work in slaughterhouses or the kitchen of a restaurant and remain hidden from the world.
Being a butcher surely isn’t an easy job. It calls for determination and strength, along with a whole range of other skills. On the other hand, it has now become easier than it was in the past, as a modern butcher can rely on the discoveries of technology. Thus, there’s no need for them to slice the meat manually when the best electric meat slicer is at hand or go through the trouble of stuffing sausages by hand when they can use an automated electric stuffer. And this is not all. Today, the bones are cut mechanically, which makes it easier to manipulate a large animal carcass.
However, cutting meat is just one part of a butcher’s job, so let’s take some time and analyze what a butcher does during a workday and what path you should follow to become one.
What Does a Butcher Do?
Depending on the workplace, butchers can have different attributions. For example, butchers who work in retail stores will go through the following daily tasks:
- Preparing the work equipment – this consists of checking if the machines are in order, if the blades need sharpening, and even sharpening the knives and the blades.
- Reception of the meat – they will receive the merchandise, inspect it, and assess if it follows the standards, and then store it according to the sanitation rules.
- Meat processing – they divide the carcasses into smaller pieces, then debone and cut the meat, and even mince it.
- Packing tasks – they weigh the meat, then wrap it and display it for sale.
- Wait on customers – sometimes, they are in charge of serving the customers. They may also cut or slice meat to the customers’ specifications.
- Cleaning tasks – they are in charge of keeping their workspace clean and will perform cleaning jobs several times a day and at the end of the shift.
Butchers who work in slaughterhouses may not cover all these tasks. As they usually work on an assembly line, each of them ends up producing a single type of cut all day. This is why they are often called meat cutters.
The third category, butchers who run their own store, has to deal not only with meat cutting and serving but with administrative tasks that include making inventories, ordering supplies, and keeping records.
Skills You Need to Become a Butcher
What’s attractive about this job is that once you’ve gotten specialized and hired, it is very improbable that you will lose your place. How is this possible? There are no many people out there able to concentrate all the required skills.
Let’s take a look at what it requires:
- Stamina – you will be standing a lot, days and days of bending over the work table and cutting meat. This surely isn’t for everyone, so you should have strong bones and joints, ready to handle this pressure.
- Hand-eye coordination – if you may, in time, build up resistance, this skill is usually a given. And it is essential, as being able to work fast with a sharp knife without cutting yourself is basically the description of this job.
- Depth perception – it allows you to estimate how much you should cut so the meat looks good and the waste is reduced to a minimum.
- Strength – you will need to handle large animal carcasses, so you should be able to lift a considerable weight and carry it from one place to the other. Moreover, you must be able to sustain its weight while getting it through the electric saw, otherwise, you may injure yourself.
- Attention to details – some cuts are difficult to obtain, so you’ll need to be able to concentrate and get them right. Besides, concentration is the key to avoiding accidents.
- Communication skills – if you’ll be working in a store, you must be able to speak to the customers, be polite, understand their requests, and serve them well. Furthermore, even if you have no contact with the customers, you will still need to communicate with your coworkers and supervisor, and a team player is more desired.
- Good health – as you will be working with food, you may be requested to perform a physical exam before getting the job or even before being allowed to enroll in courses.
Do You Need a Certification?
In most cases, you won’t need to follow a specialized course and get a diploma in the field. Nonetheless, most employers will require you to have finished high school and be at least 18 years old. The best way to learn this profession is by doing it. Thus, you can enroll in an apprenticeship program that will give you the occasion to learn while getting paid. You will also get a certificate from this.
If you are in an early career planning stage, it is good to know that most employers prefer to hire butchers who can speak English and have a basic mathematic understanding.
How Much Do Professional Butchers Make?
The salary can vary substantially depending on the workplace and the area where the employer activates. Nonetheless, the average pay situates somewhere between $24,000 and $36,000 per year, with the potential of reaching over $40,000 in some states.
But what differentiates this job from others in the food industry is that is quite difficult to find a good butcher who can check all the required skills. Thus, you can rely on it to have relatively good financial security.
The Bottom Line
Some papers have already called this job “a dying art”, and this is because independent butcheries started to disappear in the past years. Nonetheless, if it is truly dying, then a new one is starting to take its place, one that uses heavy-duty electrical tools and is more precise and efficient. Thus, even if the industry is changing, it doesn’t mean that butchers will not find a place in it anymore. They just need to adapt.