Retail and Wholesale Butcher

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Retail and Wholesale Butcher


Meat is present in most cultures, either as a main dish or as a garnish. The animals are raised by farmers and slaughtered at slaughterhouses, but it is the butchers who actually de-bone, cut up, and sell meat at retail and wholesale levels. Butchers make sure to prepare meat so that it is clean, lean, and attractive to the shopper.

Butchers work in a variety of ways. Some work for wholesale distribution companies, and package a lot of one type of meat, whereas others may work in or own butcher shops. In these shops, they prepare a wide selection of meat products in advance, as well as specifically to a customer's request. They may start out with more routine work such as removing bones, and gradually learn other skills such as rolling and tying roasts, and curing meat. Some even start out on an assembly line, and work their way up from there.

Breaking down carcasses can take hand and power tools, a clear, level head and an adherence to rules about safety and cleanliness. It also takes a sound knowledge of the anatomy of a number of different animals. Butchers also order, handle and prepare for sale a variety of meat products, and if they run a shop, as well, they deal with ordering and selling manufacturer-prepared meat products, cured meat, and look after inventories and customer relations, as well.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as a butcher? Butchers require good health, and the strength and stamina required to lift and move heavy pieces of meat. They should have excellent hand-eye coordination, depth perception and color vision, as well as be able to follow instructions. Butchers enjoy working independently as well as in a team environment. They should be able to communicate well with the general public, and have a head for business if they choose to branch off on their own.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Use tools to cut up meat into family-sized and individual-sized portions
  • Ensure meat quality
  • Package, price and display meat items
  • Prepare and market ready-to-cook and partially/fully prepared meat items
  • Display meat products properly
  • Serve customers
  • Cut orders to meet special needs
  • Keep records of meat sales and distribution
  • Maintain inventories
  • Maintain clean and sterile environment at all times
  • Butchers spend each day with meat. They cut up carcasses, package meat, and either sell it directly to customers or distribute it to a number of locations. They do everything from de-bone meat to precook it for sale. They work indoors, and rarely travel, unless they work with a small distribution company and help with deliveries as well.
  • Generally, they work indoors in temperature-controlled conditions. They are on their feet most of their work day and routinely lift items weighing up to 60 pounds. Butchers work regular hours, generally 40 a week. If they work with a supermarket, they may be required to work evenings and weekends. Butchers usually work alongside at least one assistant.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Butchers are employed by supermarkets, specialty sausage and delicatessen stores, and independent meat markets or meat processing establishments.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Eventually butchers can advance to positions such as meat department manager in a supermarket or supervisor in a meat processing establishment. Some open their own meat markets or move into related positions such as meat inspector or meat sales representative. Butchers may also open their own shops and may choose to specialize in offering organic, free-range meat, sausage and delicatessen products, or imported meats. They can also become meat inspectors for the government, or meat sales representatives for meat distribution companies.

  Educational Paths  
Retail and wholesale butchers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Most butchers are trained by food stores. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a retail and wholesale butcher, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the retail and wholesale butcher a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Health-Supportive Culinary Arts
  • Culinary Arts
  • Pastry & Baking Arts
  • And more...

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