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Meat Cutter Certification and License

With appropriate training, either through on-the-job work experience, an apprenticeship or academic certificate program, you can become a professional meat cutter. Read on to learn more about this profession, including any licensure or certification requirements.

What You Need to Know

Very few state, county or city governments regulate certification or licensure for individual meat cutters, processors or packagers. Many do require establishments that process and sell meat products and other produce to obtain a license, and working for those types of companies might require you to demonstrate a basic knowledge of meat handling and sanitation. If you need to obtain a certification or license, or just want to learn more about the profession, training programs are available to help you.

Licensing May require exam testing your knowledge of meat cutting, sanitation, and health codes
Median Salary (2017) $30,890 (butchers and meat cutters)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6% growth (butchers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Get My Certification and License?

If you work in an area that does mandate individual licensure, you'll usually need to take an exam that tests your familiarity with meat cutting, safety and health codes and regularly maintain your license.

In some states, you might be required to obtain a health certificate for employment that verifies your personal health and lack of risk to consumers and the public. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established standards for sanitary practices and safety methods for workers of meat handling companies that many states have integrated into their own regulations, including equipment care and usage practices, the use of protective clothing and general employee protection measures. You can review the requirements of your individual state or city through your local department of health.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

You can prepare for a career as a meat cutter through a certificate program in meat science, meat processing or meat cutting. These short programs combine academic learning and practice with hands-on training and experience as an intern or apprentice. Certificate programs in meat processing and meat science include courses in livestock processing and hazard analysis. Through meat cutter certificate programs you'll focus on wrapping, as well as maintaining inventory and market meat products. All programs include sanitation and safety technique instruction for meat processing and handling. These additional topics may also be explored:

  • Slaughter
  • Animal science
  • Operation of industry technology
  • Cutting
  • Displaying
  • Weighing cuts of meat

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Most meat cutting and processing establishments offer on-the-job training for new butchers and cutters. If you've had apprenticeship experience or formal education, it might improve your employment opportunities, though you'll likely need to participate in a training session to become familiar with a particular company's guidelines. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you might receive training that lasts several weeks to more than a year, depending on your job responsibilities.

Can I Learn Online?

Due to the hands-on nature of meat cutting training, online programs are nearly impossible to find. If your interests lie in culinary arts, you might find a few certificate programs that focus on meat cutting and preparation that provide online courses through demonstration videos. These programs could require you to have previous experience, education or a degree prior to enrolling.

What Are My Career Opportunities?

Having completed any necessary training and licensure requirements, you could seek employment in a variety of settings. Butchers and meat cutters commonly work in butcher shops and grocery stores, wrapping, weighing and displaying meat for customers. You might be responsible for using knives, slicers, bone saws and cleavers to prepare meat for sale.

Through education or training in meat processing, you could also find job opportunities in meat packing or processing plants. Responsibilities in these institutions might include cutting and trimming meat, packing meat, animal slaughtering, equipment inspection and placing orders.