What do Butchers Do


Butchers cut, trim, and package meat for retail sale. Butchers trim, process, package, and trim meat to sell and consume.


The following tasks are common during a day as a butcher: 

  • Wrap and weigh meat to complete client's orders 
  • Create displays and monitor sales trends
  • Adjust cutting equipment and sharpen knives
  • Monitor inventory in freezers
  • Inspect, receive, and store meat as it is delivered
  • Grind, debone and cut meat for client orders and retail purposes
  • Meet sanitation and health and safety standards by accurately cleaning equipment and the facility

Butchers are responsible for trimming and cutting meat from larger portions. Wholesale meat slabs are cut into roasts, chops, ribs, steaks and more. 

The meat is prepared for sale by completing additional tasks including weighing the meat, displaying it in refrigerated coolers and wrapping it for customers. Retail butcher environments have butchers working with customers to prepare specific cuts of meat as requested. 

Inventory and Sales Tracking

Keeping track of stock and running consistent inventory is another responsibility that butchers have. They must anticipate seasonal sales such as having enough turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas, grilling options for summer BBQs and camping, etc. 

Sales must be kept track of to determine which portions and items have not met their targets. Supplies must be ordered to ensure that the butcher shop can run in an organized manner. Records must be properly kept ensuring all federal inspection and safety measures are met. 

Sharp and Dangerous Equipment

Butchers rely on various equipment including meat saws, grinders, knives and more. There are strict sanitation protocols to follow for cleaning the countertops, workspace and equipment. The entire working area needs to remain sanitary to prevent any contamination from the meat.

It is essential to operate this equipment safely and only once proper training has been given. People can easily cut themselves or remove digits from their hands if they are not focused on the job. 

Avoid speaking to others while you are operating sharp equipment and be sure you are wearing your PPE or personal protective equipment. Know where the First Aid Kit is located in case of an emergency. 

Requirements for Becoming a Butcher

Typically, most butchers are trained on the job and do not have to undergo formal educational training to work in this field. 

First Aid training is wise to obtain for any job, especially one that relies on using sharp and dangerous equipment. 


Some employers will ask for a high-school diploma; however, no specific education is formally required to work as a butcher. 


Since most butchers learn their skills while they are working, the exact amount of training varies from place to place. Simple meat cutting including prepared food items can take approximately a week to master. More engaged cutting tasks including specialty meat cuts from a large animal generally require training that can last many months to longer than a year. 

Entry-level training for workers starts by having the employee conquer less difficult tasks. They will learn how to make easy cuts such as dividing wholesale items into resale sizes and the best techniques for removing the bones. 

With careful supervision, more experienced workers can help trainees learn how to use the tools correctly and how to disinfect them. Knives will need to be sharpened regularly and how to maintain a sanitary work area. 

Trainees will learn different methods for curing meat and making sausage. They will also master how to tie, roll and shape roasts. Training will be given regarding food safety and how to minimize any issues related to foodborne pathogens in meat.

Typically, workers enter the occupation as meat cutters or as meat clerks. Next, they gain proficiency by demonstrating their skills as meat cutters. Finally, they may work towards becoming a butcher. Certain unions or employers may have apprenticeship programs that butchers can participate in. 

Essential Qualities 

Dexterity: Butchers rely on sharp meat-cutting equipment and knives to conduct their duties. They need to have adequate hand control to make sure the meat cuts are the correct portion.

Customer-Service Skills: Retail-based butchers should be courteous to their clients. They should be prepared to fill out orders and answer specific questions to satisfy their customers.

Physical Strength: Butchers need to lift and carry heavy meat boxes that often weigh more than fifty pounds. This can pertain to delivery items and custom orders.

Physical Stamina: This profession requires butchers to spend hours on their feet when storing, packaging and cutting meat.

Personal Protective Equipment

Butchers will need to follow the right safety protocols, or they will be shut down by the Health Inspection Agency. Protective gloves, protective clothing such as a white chef’s attire like a lab coat, protective goggles when cutting meat and a hair net are some of the minimum requirements. 

Wearing the proper non-slip footwear is also very important. Being warm enough for any time spent in the freezers is also something to consider when one is spending significant time inside to complete inventory or deliveries. Communicating with coworkers when you are entering the freezer is also a good habit to get into. 

Registrations, Certifications and Licenses

Certain locations and states demand that butchers have certification in food handling. Requirements can vary significantly from each place. Contact your local licensing board in the state to obtain more information.

If butchers follow strict dietary guidelines for their religion, they may need to undertake additional training that leads to becoming certified ahead of being endorsed by a religious counterpart for meat preparation. 

Work Environment

Butchers held about 145,000 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of butchers were as follows:

  • Food and beverage stores - 81%
  • Animal slaughtering and processing - 6%
  • General merchandise stores - 6%

The work may be physically demanding, particularly for butchers who make repetitive cuts. Butchers typically stand while cutting meat and often lift and move heavy carcasses or boxes of meat supplies.

Because meat must be kept at cool temperatures, butchers commonly work in cold rooms—typically around 40 degrees Fahrenheit—for extended periods.

Butchers must keep their hands and working areas clean to prevent contamination, and those working in retail settings must remain presentable to customers.

Injuries and Illnesses

Butchers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers use dangerous tools, such as sharp knives and meat saws, and work in areas with slippery floors and surfaces. To reduce the risk of cuts and falls, workers wear protective clothing, such as cut-resistant gloves, heavy aprons, and nonslip footwear.

Work Schedules

Most butchers work full time. Some work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook

Employment of butchers is projected to decline 5 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Despite declining employment, about 15,400 openings for butchers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Long-term food consumption patterns have trended toward restaurant spending and away from grocery stores. This trend is expected to continue over the decade, leading to projected employment declines for occupations heavily employed in grocery stores—including butchers.


The median annual wage for butchers was $36,050 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,770.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for butchers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • General merchandise stores - $37,920
  • Animal slaughtering and processing - $36,770
  • Food and beverage stores - $34,410

Most butchers work full time. Some work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Academic Programs of Interest

A Meatcutter Program will teach a student how to break down carcasses, cut meat to industry specification using hand and power tools in a safe and sanitary manner. A student will also learn how to order, handle and prepare for sale a variety of seafood products, manufacturers prepared meat products, and handles cured meat products for sale. The Meatcutter Program can usually be completed within... more