Butchers order, inspect and buy meat to prepare it and sell it as consumable meat products. They perform activities such as cutting, trimming, boning, tying, and grinding beef, pork, and poultry meat. They prepare those mentioned sorts of meat for consumption.
The duties of a butcher include, but are not limited to:
- Maintaining and monitoring inventory levels of food items, supplies, and equipment to ensure appropriate levels are maintained
- Preparing food items for sale by cutting, trimming, slicing, dicing, chopping, marinating, wrapping, freezing, and packaging
- Inspecting and weighing incoming meat and other food items to ensure that they meet health standards
- Operating meat grinders, band saws, slicers, and other equipment used to cut meat into pieces and prepare it for retail sale
- Storing meat in refrigerators or freezers until it is ready to be used in meals or sold to consumers
- Examining cuts of meat to determine their quality, such as color, fat content, and texture
- Educating consumers about the different types of meats available for purchase at the store and how they should be prepared for consumption
- Developing and maintaining relationships with suppliers to ensure adequate product availability
- Preparing meat for cooking by cutting off excess fat, skin, and bone, using a variety of knives and saws
The following job titles also refer to butcher:
The work may be physically demanding, particularly for butchers who make repetitive cuts. 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 to customers.
Injuries and Illnesses
Butchers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers use dangerous tools, 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. Some work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays.
No formal education credential is typically required for becoming a butcher, although some employers may prefer to hire workers who have a high school diploma.
Butchers typically learn their skills on the job, and the length of training varies considerably. Training for simple meat cutting, such as for prepared food items, may take about a week. However, more complicated cutting tasks, such as for specialty cuts of meat from a large animal, 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. For example, they learn how to sharpen knives and clean working areas and equipment.
Trainees also may learn how to shape, roll, and tie roasts; make sausage; and cure meat. Employees also receive training in food safety to minimize the risk of foodborne pathogens in meats.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Butcher is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Butcher career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to butcher.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of butcher. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of butcher with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of butcher.
- Legislation about animal origin products: The applicable legal rules on temperature, waste materials, traceability, labelling, trading, and the transport of animal origin products.
- Warm blooded animal organs: The difference between white and red organs of warm blooded animals and their position in the body. A white organ can be the stomach, red organs can be the heart, the liver, or the lungs. The norms to treat these organs properly.
- Cultural practices regarding animal parts sorting: The religious and cultural practices regarding animal parts sorting as to not mix meat parts with other parts that may inhibit religion practitioners from eating the meat.
- Food storage: The proper conditions and methods to store food to keep it from spoiling, taking into account humidity, light, temperature and other environmental factors.
- Animal anatomy for food production: The anatomy of animals, their organs and their functions, as well as the usage of these organs for food production after slaughtering.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of butcher.
- Tolerate strong smells: Tolerate strong smells expelled by the goods being processed during the production of goods.
- Ensure sanitation: Keep workspaces and equipment free from dirt, infection, and disease by removing waste, trash and providing for appropriate cleaning.
- Use a computer: Utilise computer equipment or digital devices to facilitate quality control, data management, and communication. Follow instructions given by a computer programme, create computer files or documents.
- Provide first aid: Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or first aid in order to provide help to a sick or injured person until they receive more complete medical treatment.
- Ensure refrigeration of food in the supply chain: Apply different procedures to maintain the chain of temperature of foodstuffs and products in each stage of the production and supply chain.
- Tend meat packaging machine: Use machinery to package meat products under modified atmosphere, extending its shelf life.
- Mark differences in colours: Identify differences between colours, such as shades of colour.
- Monitor stock level: Evaluate how much stock is used and determine what should be ordered.
- Follow an environmental friendly policy while processing food: Assure an environmental-friendly policy when working with natural resources like meat, fruits and vegetables. This means handling resources in the most efficient and nature-friendly way while trying to minimalise pressure on the ecosystem.
- Apply HACCP: Apply regulations regarding manufacture of food and food safety compliance. Employ food safety procedures based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).
- Apply preservation treatments: Apply common treatments to preserve the characteristics of food products taking care of their appearance, smell and taste.
- Trace meat products: Take the regulations regarding the traceability of final products within the sector into account.
- Process livestock organs: Process livestock organs and other byproducts for meat manufacturing processes. Remove organs from carcasses and perform activities such as cutting or dividing parts, washing organs, execute specific treatments, packaging, and labelling.
- Maintain food specifications: Preserve, review, and evaluate existing food specifications such as recipes.
- Cope with blood: Cope with blood, organs, and other internal parts without feeling distressed.
- Follow hygienic procedures during food processing: Ensure a clean working space according to hygienic standards in the food processing industry.
- Tend meat processing production machines: Operate production equipment and tools to process meat and meat products.
- Prepare meat for sale: Prepare meat for sale or cooking which comprise the seasoning, larding, or marinating of the meat, but not the actual cooking.
- Apply requirements concerning manufacturing of food and beverages: Apply and follow national, international, and internal requirements quoted in standards, regulations and other specifications related with manufacturing of food and beverages.
- Apply GMP: Apply regulations regarding manufacture of food and food safety compliance. Employ food safety procedures based on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
- Prepare specialised meat products: Prepare specialised meat products, minced meat, salt-cured meat, smoked meat, and other meat preparations such as pickled meat, sausages, crumbed meat, veal olive, and chipolata.
- Measure precise food processing operations: Carry out accurately measured assignments with suitable tools and equipment in the process of producing food and beverages.
- Monitor temperature in manufacturing process of food and beverages: Monitor and control required temperatures in the different phases of production until the product reaches suitable properties according to specifications.
- Operate meat processing equipment: Operate meat processing equipment for meat preparations and prepared meat products.
- Consider economic criteria in decision making: Develop proposals and take appropriate decisions taking into account economic criteria.
- Work in cold environments: Work in cold storage and deep freeze facilities. Cooling rooms are around 0°C. Resist temperatures of -18°C in meat processing freezer facilities as required by law, except for the slaughterhouse, where room working temperatures are below 12°C by law.
- Handle knives for meat processing activities: Handle knives for meat processing activities. Use the correct knives and cutting instruments for meat preparations, prepared meat products, or meat products made by a butcher.
- Grind meat: Use various types of machinery to grind animal parts into minced meat. Avoid the inclusion of bone splinters in the product. Maintain the meat grinding machine.
- Process customer orders: Handle orders placed by customers. Receive the customer order and define a list of requirements, a working process, and a time frame. Execute the work as planned.
- Work in a food processing team: Collaborate in a team with other food processing professionals in service of the food and beverages industry.
- Split animal carcasses: Separate animal carcasses and organs into larger subsections such as head and limbs, debone and cut them.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of butcher. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Food allergies: The types of food allergies within the sector, which substances trigger allergies, and how they can be replaced or eliminated (if possible).
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of butcher. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Care for food aesthetic: Convey presentation and aesthetic elements into the production of food. Cut products properly, manage right quantities into the product, care for the attractiveness of the product.
- Implement marketing strategies: Implement strategies which aim to promote a specific product or service, using the developed marketing strategies.
- Handle glassware: Utilise glassware by polishing, cleaning and storing it properly.
- Manage challenging work conditions during food processing operations: Handle stressful and challenging work conditions in a limited time frame to ensure qualitative food and beverage products are created in time.
- Inspect raw materials for muscle food processing: Inspect raw materials required for the production process, assessing quality and hidden flaws. Verify the origin of the raw materials using the sector defined documents, stamps or marks.
- Manage budgets: Plan, monitor and report on the budget.
- Act reliably: Proceed in a way that one can be relied on or depended on.
- Handle customer complaints: Administer complaints and negative feedback from customers in order to address concerns and where applicable provide a quick service recovery.
- Keep inventory of goods in production: Keep inventory of goods whether they are goods in the front end (i.e. raw materials), intermediate, or back end (i.e. finished products). Count goods and store them for the following production and distribution activities.
- Negotiate terms with suppliers: Identify and work with suppliers to ensure quality of supply and best price has been negotiated.
- Execute chilling processes to food products: Carry out chilling, freezing and cooling operation processes to food products such as fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, catering food. Prepare food products for extended periods of storage or half prepared food. Ensure safety and nutrition qualities of frozen goods and preserve products in accordance with specified temperatures.
- Carry out end of day accounts: Execute end of day accounts to ensure that business transactions from the current day have been correctly processed.
- Hire new personnel: Hire new personnel for a company or organisation payroll via a prepared set of procedures. Make staffing decisions and direct selection co-workers.
- Negotiate improvement with suppliers: Build a good relation with suppliers in order to improve knowledge and quality of supply.
- Liaise with colleagues: Liaise with fellow colleagues to ensure common understanding on work related affairs and agree on the necessary compromises the parties might need to face. Negotiate compromises between parties as to ensure that work in general run efficiently towards the achievement of the objectives.
- Work according to recipe: Perform tasks in food preparation according to recipe or specification in order to preserve the quality of ingredients and to ensure replication accuracy of the recipe. Select the appropriate materials to follow the recipe, taking into account the current situation.
- Lift heavy weights: Lift heavy weights and apply ergonomic lifting techniques to avoid damaging the body.
- Select adequate ingredients: Select adequate ingredients based in their technological function to execute ideas. Strive for consistent good quality of the ingredients and use them adequately to obtain a satisfactory final product.
- Implement sales strategies: Carry out the plan to gain competitive advantage on the market by positioning the company’s brand or product and by targeting the right audience to sell this brand or product to.
- Adapt efficient food processing practices: Ensure to adapt the most efficient production techniques to accomplish food processing tasks with the least amount of time, effort and costs.
- Have computer literacy: Utilise computers, IT equipment and modern day technology in an efficient way.
- Operate weighing machine: Work with a weighing machine to measure raw, half-finished and finished products.
- Dispose food waste: Dispose or collect food waste with the purpose of recycling or throwing away from the production process. Follow established procedures for their disposal taking care of the environment and the safety matters according to legislations.
- Produce meat-based jelly preparations: Making gelée preparations with salted, and heated materials. Boil added ingredients in gelée and fill bowels or forms (aspic).
- Control of expenses: Monitoring and maintaining effective cost controls, in regards to efficiencies, waste, overtime and staffing. Assessing excesses and strives for efficiency and productivity.
- Identify the factors causing changes in food during storage: recognize the most relevant factors (chemical, physical, environmental etc) that can alter the food during its storage
- Analyse characteristics of food products at reception: Analyse characteristics, composition, and other properties of food products at reception.
- Operate metal contaminants detector: Control and monitor a detector that screens meat products for common metal contaminants such as screw, staples, or lead shot. Take appropriate actions in case of non conformities.
- Liaise with managers: Liaise with managers of other departments ensuring effective service and communication, i.e. sales, planning, purchasing, trading, distribution and technical.
- Ensure compliance with environmental legislation in food production: Make sure to comply with environmental legislation in food production. Understand the legislation related to environmental matters in food manufacturing and apply it in practice.
ISCO group and title
7511 – Butchers, fishmongers and related food preparers
- Butcher – ESCO
- Butcher : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Butcher Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
- Featured image: Photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash