What They Do: Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.
Work Environment: Most butchers work in grocery stores and specialty meat shops, and some work in animal slaughtering and processing plants. The work can be physically demanding and may include exposure to repetitive motions, dangerous equipment, and cold temperatures.
How to Become One: Butchers learn their skills on the job. No formal education is required.
Salary: The median annual wage for butchers is $36,050.
Job Outlook: Employment of butchers is projected to decline 5 percent over the next ten years.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of butchers with similar occupations.
Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale.
Butchers typically do the following:
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 meatcutters. 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.
Butchers hold about 145,000 jobs. The largest employers of butchers are as follows:
|Food and beverage stores||81%|
|Animal slaughtering and processing||6%|
|General merchandise stores||6%|
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.
Butchers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 meatcutting equipment as part of their duties. 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.
The median annual wage for butchers is $36,050. 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 $23,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,770.
The median annual wages for butchers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|General merchandise stores||$37,920|
|Animal slaughtering and processing||$36,770|
|Food and beverage stores||$34,410|
Most butchers work full time. Some work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Employment of butchers is projected to decline 5 percent over the next ten years.
Despite declining employment, about 15,400 openings for butchers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Long-term food consumption patterns have trended toward restaurant spending and away from grocery stores. This trend is expected to continue over the decade, leading to projected employment declines for occupations heavily employed in grocery stores—including butchers.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|Butchers and meat cutters||145,000||137,200||-5||-7,800|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.