If you want to work with meat and create quality products for your customers, becoming a butcher is a good career option. It’s common for butchers to work in grocery stores or factories. However, many are also self-employed. You might even work for a processing company to help hunters with wild game.
Deciding to become a butcher means you need to know the right steps. It starts with a basic understanding of what a butcher does. Then, the process of how to become a butcher moves into the necessary education and training. Let’s look at what you need to know before you make this career decision.
Duties of a Butcher
It’s common for a butcher to be referred to as a meat cutter. Your main job will be to chop, portion, grind and package different meat products for your employer. This may be for a grocery store or a processing business.
Some butchers work for slaughtering businesses. If you work for this type of business, you may be responsible for slaughtering the animals from which the meat will come.
Common job duties of a butcher include:
- Cutting, chopping, grinding, packaging, and preparing meat
- Inspecting meat deliveries for safety
- Helping customers choose the right meat and cut of meat
- Pricing, weighing, and displaying meat products
- Keeping records for the business
- Maintaining and cleaning equipment and tools
- Ensuring the operating adheres to federal and state regulations
As a butcher, you will need to know how to create the right cuts of meat. It’s also important to understand how to store meat and how to package it properly.
How to Become a Butcher in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Finish High School
While some companies may hire you as a butcher without a high school education or GED, this is rare. A high school education or equivalent is usually a requirement for this career path. You will need to have basic literacy and math skills to become a butcher.
Also, if you plan to become certified or gain additional training, you will likely need a high school education or equivalent. It may even be required if you want to enter into an apprenticeship program.
Step #2 – Enter into a Butcher Training Program
A butcher training program can offer everything you need to become a butcher quickly. This type of program will likely teach you basic cutting, trimming, and boning techniques. You will also learn customer service skills and sanitation through this type of training.
Often, you will gain hands-on experience, along with practical knowledge. For example, some of the courses will allow you to actually cut meat, while others will be taught in a classroom setting.
It’s common to enter into meat processing and food safety programs if you want to become a butcher. You might also enter into an artisanal modern meat production program.
Butcher training programs may last around one year long. You will earn a certificate and will likely work with several types of meat. Some programs offer specialized certificates for beef, lamb, poultry, and pork. Others allow you to gain the necessary skills to become a master butcher.
Step #3 – Enter an Apprenticeship
Becoming a butcher may not require an apprenticeship, but this is helpful to gain hands-on experience. You will likely start as a meat cutter. This type of butchery position allows you to gain experience and new skills.
With the supervision of a professional butcher, you can gain the skills and techniques you need. Grocery stores and butcher’s shops often offer apprenticeships. You might be able to work as an apprentice while attending butcher school.
Step #4 – Become Certified or Licensed
Some states and local areas will require you to become licensed or certified as a butcher. If this is the case, you will need to pass the right exam before becoming a butcher. However, you will need to pass the right exam for food handling safety and health codes in some states.
Step #5 – Obtain a College Degree
While a college degree isn’t necessary for those wanting to become a butcher, it can help. There are several degree programs for butchers to consider. Even an associate degree can help you develop the necessary skills to run a butcher’s shop or become a butchery manager.
If you decide to get a more advanced degree, you can study food engineering or microbiology. This can help open up new opportunities, such as teaching.
Types of Skills You Need to Become a Butcher
Some skills you can learn with the right training. Other skills you should already have as a part of your personality or habits. For example, every butcher should have good hygiene. While this skill can be taught, it should already be a part of your daily life.
Other important skills butchers should have include:
- Manual dexterity – You will need to work with your hands and with special tools. Good hand-eye coordination, eyesight, and depth perception are very helpful as a butcher.
- Focused concentration – Working with very sharp tools requires excellent concentration. As a butcher, you should be able to focus on the job at hand without getting distracted.
- Stamina and Strength – It’s not uncommon for a butcher to spend most of the day on their feet. You will also need to carry uncut meat, which requires physical strength.
- Basic math skills – Since you will likely need to weigh and price meat, you need basic math skills.
- Communication skills – Butchers often work with the public and co-workers. Therefore, you will need to communicate with customers, workers, salespeople, and delivery drivers.
- Specialized Knowledge – You may also need to understand how to prepare Halal or Kosher meat. If you work for a meat processing company, you might need to know how to process wild game or specific types of animals.
- Product Knowledge – You will need to learn and understand the products you are selling. The various cuts of meat will be important information for a butcher.
These are just some of the skills you should have as a butcher.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Butcher
How much can I make as a butcher?
The annual salary for a butcher is about $36,000. Some companies will pay more, with some butchers earning closer to $50K per year. It’s also possible to earn more with more experience or by working for yourself.
Your actual salary will depend on your location, too. Most butchers also get benefits, such as paid time off, a 401(k) match, health insurance, provided food, employee discounts, and more.
What type of jobs are butchers qualified for?
There are many different types of jobs you can work in as a butcher. For example, you might work as a deli associate, meat carver, trimmer, meat cutter, or butchery assistant. As you gain experience, you might even work your way up to become a butchery manager.
Is the field of butchery growing?
Yes, but it’s growing much slower than the average of all occupations. Butchery is expected to grow by about 2% over the next ten years.
What is the average cost to become a butcher?
Since there are no higher educational requirements to become a butcher, spending very little to enter this career is common. However, if you decide to get a degree or enter butcher training, you may have to pay for the training.
However, many butchers gain the skills they need through on-the-job training. This can ensure you can become a butcher without spending any money. However, if you want to manage or run a business, you may need to pay to get a two or four-year degree.
What type of work conditions are common for butchers?
You will work in a bit of a high-risk environment as a butcher. Injury to your fingers or hands is possible with the sharp tools you will use. It’s also common for butchers to spend most of their working hours on their feet. Temperatures can vary depending on the day and where you are working. You will need good stamina, agility, and strength to work as a butcher.
How long will it take me to become a butcher?
This question depends on the career training path you choose. For example, if you enter into a butcher training program, it might take you about one year to complete the program. On the other hand, an associate degree program will take around two years.
You can also enter into this career and receive on-the-job training. Often, butchers start as meat cutters and learn on the job. If this is the path you take, you might become a butcher in just a few short weeks. However, more complicated costs of meat may take many months or longer to learn.