How Do I Become a Meat Cutter?

Research what it takes to become a meat cutter. Learn about training requirements, salary and employment growth to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Meat Cutter?

A meat cutter is a butcher who works in a meat processing plant. A meat cutter works on an assembly line, so they specialize in processing wholesale portions of meat into specific cuts, such as steaks, chops and roasts. This requires familiarity with a particular meat cutting tool, like a knife or grinder, depending on their position within the assembly line and the type of processing plant in which they work. Meat cutters must also be sure to keep their area clean and closely follow all safety and sanitation procedures. Individuals can become meat cutters by learning from experienced workers. Learn more about training ahead, along with some of the skills needed and career information.

Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Manual dexterity, physical stamina, concentration
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% (for all butchers and meat cutters)*
Median Salary (2015) $29,130 (for all butchers and meat cutters)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Might I Need to Be a Meat Cutter?

If you're interested in becoming a meat cutter or butcher, you'll typically gain your training through on-the-job sessions with supervisors or managers. Most jobs in retail establishments, like butcher shops, include training in the methods of cutting various portions of meat. Employers might choose to enroll you in continuing education courses or seminars related to new technologies or sanitation regulations. Such seminars might be offered by meat industry associations or universities with food technology programs. Some community colleges and vocational schools also offer skills certificate programs related to meat cutting.

What Are the Job Duties?

According to the BLS, meat cutters work on assembly lines in meat processing plants. You'll be responsible for cutting and preparing slabs of meat according to specific customer based on your position in the line. For example, you might cut up chicken meat into strips or into small chunks suitable for stew. You might also be responsible for grinding beef, cutting chops, shaping roasts and preparing boneless cuts of meat.

Another possible job in a processing plant is converting animal carcasses into usable slabs of meat, though this task is generally reserved for slaughterers. Slaughterers are responsible for killing the animals and cutting off different portions of meat that can later be packaged and sold to retail establishments, wholesalers and restaurants. You need to know how to recognize and create different cuts of meat, such as chucks, rounds and loins.

What Skills Will I Need?

In order to work as a meat cutter, you'll need the ability to work in large processing plants, cutting room floors or refrigerated areas. Much of your work will be done with large cutting machines, specialty knives, cleavers and other types of dangerous equipment. Sanitation and cleanliness skills are a must.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), butchers and meat cutters held about 137,350 jobs in the United States in 2015 (www.bls.gov). They worked for grocery stores, specialty food stores, animal slaughtering facilities and meat processors. The median annual salary in the profession in 2015 was $29,130.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a meat cutter, you could find a job as a general butcher working in a butcher shop or grocery store, where you would cut up meat based on specific customer orders. Another possibility in the food service industry is a position as a restaurant cook. If you work at the grill station, you may specialize in preparing meat orders. Although cooks require no formal training, a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in culinary arts can boost job prospects.

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