Learn about the professional duties of a meat cutter, as well as the skills and training needed. Explore related education options, career possibilities, employment outlook data and salary information.
Is Meat Cutting for Me?
Meat cutters and butchers usually work in grocery stores or wholesale food companies. In this position, you can prepare and cut meat into smaller portions for customers to eat. You'll need steady hands and the ability to follow safety procedures, since you'll use a variety of cutting tools, like meat cleavers, slicers and knives. You also need to have good communication skills, because your job could entail working directly with customers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for butchers and meat cutters was only expected to grow by five percent between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Meat cutters and butchers made a median annual income of $28,360 in May 2013, according to the BLS. With enough experience, you could advance to a supervisor or manager position. You could also open your own meat market or become responsible for purchasing orders for grocery stores or other large retailers.
How Can I Become a Meat Cutter?
Meat cutters and butchers usually learn on-the-job or through an apprenticeship in meat cutting. The length of training varies for each job and can sometimes take up to two years. You'll usually start by learning simple cuts and move up to sectioning an entire animal as you learn about each type of meat cut. Apprentice meat cutters, also called meat cutter trainees, learn through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on teaching. Inventory management and other basic business skills are sometimes taught in addition to meat cutting. Food safety programs are a common part of meat cutter and butcher training because of the potential food illnesses that can occur from mishandling raw meat.
An apprentice meat cutter is usually required to be 18 years of age, but completion of high school is not always necessary. The advantages of taking part in an apprenticeship can include earning higher wages and getting better job benefits than meat cutters who did not learn through an apprenticeship.
Although you aren't required to complete a degree program to become a meat cutter, you can find relevant programs that provide training. An associate's degree in meat processing and food safety teaches you about all areas of the meat processing industry. You can learn about meat preparation and identification and techniques for pricing cuts of meat. You'll be prepared to work as a meat cutter in grocery stores and large food processing plants upon graduation.