Butchers

What Butchers Do

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL-g0Lvw3g8

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 a Butcher

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

Pay

The median annual wage for butchers was $32,500 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of butchers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Many job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year.

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, debone, 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
  • 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 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 held about 137,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of butchers were as follows:

Food and beverage stores 79%
Animal slaughtering and processing 7
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.

Injuries and Illnesses

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.

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.

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

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

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.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,530

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 $30,200

Food preparation workers

Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers.

No formal educational credential $24,800

For information about the meat-processing industry and related trends, visit

North American Meat Institute

O*NET

Butchers and Meat Cutters


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Butchers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/butchers-and-meat-cutters.htm (visited ).