Butcher Training: How to Become a Butcher

In some restaurants, each chef handles his or her own butchering duties, but in larger operations, restaurants employ specialized butchers to cut and prepare meats for delivery to stations in the kitchen. In the French brigade system, a butcher is called a boucher, and this individual might also handle fish and seafood preparation and bread meat and fish items for frying or baking. Large restaurants and upscale dining facilities take care to use as much of the animal as possible, so bones and skins are used to make stocks, and some restaurants use brains and internal organs for delicacies that are highly regarded by some people.

Butchers also work in retail and wholesale food processing areas. Retail butchers divide animal carcasses into steaks, roasts, chops and rib sections, package meats and set up displays for customers. All types of butchers work under strict sanitary and hygiene requirements because raw meat is extremely susceptible to bacteria.

Duties of the Boucher or Butcher

Butchers have duties that most people consider unpleasant, but, unfortunately, someone must prepare every piece of meat that people eat. Butcher duties might include the following responsibilities:

  • Cut, grind, tie, debone and cube meats as necessary for each day’s menu
  • Supervise apprentices and other meat cutters
  • Order meats to keep kitchens stocked without ordering too much and risking spoilage
  • Negotiate with vendors and farmers to determine prices and other order details
  • Weigh meats to create precise serving portions
  • Receive deliveries and rotate stock
  • Keep cutting areas clean and sanitized
  • Help during service at various jobs such as breading meats or creating special boutique cuts for customer requests
  • Keep all equipment clean and maintained

Training for a Butcher Career

Butchers must be physically fit to handle unwieldy and large carcasses and have superior knife skills and detailed anatomical and food safety knowledge. Manual dexterity, good eye-hand coordination and clean working habits are also essential. You can’t be squeamish about cutting meat and dealing with blood because you will encounter it every day when you work as a butcher.

Although there are no formal requirements for restaurant butchers, most restaurants require experience, culinary certifications and food safety courses before they will consider your application. The FDA has many requirements for wholesale and retail meat cutters, and your local health department might require a certificate for any butcher job

1. A certificate of training from an apprenticeship program could qualify you for a meat-cutting job is some places.

2. You can earn an Apprentice Meat Cutter Certificate while working as an apprentice .

3. Culinary classes can help you learn what to do with meat after you cut it, and qualifying in several areas will make your application more attractive to employers.

4. Colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in meat science for qualifying to work in retail or wholesale settings.

5. The U.S. Department of Labor provides resources for researching apprenticeship programs.

Meat science courses teach students to judge meat, cut it and process it through curing, storage, cooking and merchandising. You could get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in meat science or minor in the subject while majoring in business or computer science.

Salary Expectations for Butchers

The average salary of entry-level butchers is about $13.50 an hour, but pay can vary from $24,000 to $36,000 based on education and experience. Wholesale butchers earn average salaries of $43,740, and butchers in Connecticut receive the highest salaries nationwide, which averages $42,290 per year.

Kosher and Halal Concerns

Jewish and Muslin cultures have high standards and strict guidelines about processing meat, and many of these requirements have become increasingly popular with people who support ethical treatment of animals. Both religious cultures require draining animal carcasses of blood and treating them with salt to encourage draining. Ethical treatment of animals is also required.

Butchers Have Gained Quiet Fame for Millennia

Butchers have practiced their art for millennia and inspired whole areas of religion such as halal and kosher cuisines, which demand ethical treatment of animals. Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle” in 1906, which exposed corruption and unsanitary practices in the meat industry. Butchers often become restaurant or business owners, famous barbecue chefs or head chefs in restaurants when they have suitable qualifications and experience. Celebrity butcher Dario Cecchini has become famous by promoting Italian cuts of meat that are popular in his homeland, and he has opened many restaurants to preserve the Italian tradition of local meats and sustainability.

Butchers have bloody jobs, and the work is physically demanding, but if you have the temperament to use animals ethically for food, keep a clean and sanitary station and manage ordering efficiently, then this career could be right for you.