Butchers

Summary

butchers and meat cutters image
Butchers cut meat to customers’ orders.
Quick Facts: Butchers
2015 Median Pay $29,130 per year
$14.01 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 139,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 7,000

What Butchers Do

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

Work Environment

Although most butchers work in grocery stores and specialty meat shops, 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 a Butcher

Butchers learn their skills on the job. No formal education is required.

Pay

The median annual wage for butchers was $29,130 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of butchers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Because the work is physically demanding, many job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for butchers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of butchers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about butchers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Butchers Do

butchers and meat cutters image
Butchers cut meat for display and retail sale.

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

Duties

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

butchers and meat cutters image
Butchers may need to lift large cuts of meat.

Butchers held about 139,000 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most butchers were 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.

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

butchers and meat cutters image
Butchers typically learn their skills on the job.

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

Education

There are no formal education requirements to become a 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

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.

Pay

Butchers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Butchers

$29,130

Food processing workers

$25,470

 

The median annual wage for butchers was $29,130 in May 2015. 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.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for butchers in the top industries in which they worked were 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

Butchers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Butchers

5%

Food processing workers

3%

 

Employment of butchers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 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.

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 SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Butchers and meat cutters

51-3021 139,000 146,000 5 7,000 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of butchers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
Chefs and head cooks

Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.

High school diploma or equivalent $41,500
Food and tobacco processing workers

Food and Tobacco Processing Workers

Food and tobacco processing workers operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacture of food and tobacco products.

See How to Become One $26,350
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Butchers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/butchers-and-meat-cutters.htm (visited May 04, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015