Butchers, Meat Cutters and Fishmongers - Retail and Wholesale - What They Do

Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers in retail and wholesale prepare standard cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish for sale in retail or wholesale food establishments. They are employed in supermarkets, grocery stores, butcher shops and fish stores or may be self-employed. Butchers who are supervisors or heads of departments are included in this unit group.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Cut, trim, and otherwise prepare standard cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish for sale at self-serve counters or according to customers' orders
  • Grind meats and slice cooked meats using powered grinders and slicing machines
  • Prepare special displays of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish
  • Shape, lace and tie roasts and other meats, poultry or fish and may wrap prepared meats, poultry, fish and shellfish
  • Manage inventory, keep records of sales and determine amount, product line and freshness of products according to company and customer requirements
  • Ensure food storage conditions are adequate
  • May supervise other butchers, meat cutters or fishmongers.

Job titles

  • butcher apprentice
  • fishmonger - retail
  • meat cutter - retail or wholesale
  • butcher, retail
  • supermarket meat cutter
  • head butcher - wholesale
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school may be required.
  • Completion of a college or other meat-and-fish-cutting training program, or a three-year meat cutting apprenticeship may be required.
  • On-the-job training in food stores is usually provided for retail butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers.
  • Trade certification is available, but voluntary, in Quebec and British Columbia.

Essential Skills


  • Read instructions and other text on product labels and tags. For example, they scan package labels for details about meat, poultry, fish and shellfish products. They read instructions for storing and using disinfectants on container labels. (1)
  • Read logbook entries and short notes from co-workers. For example, they read comments about cleaning and cutting priorities for weekly specials, clients' orders, deliveries and other work activities such as changing product prices. They read logbook entries from co-workers about cleaning and maintenance tasks completed in previous shifts. (1)
  • Read text entries and comments written on forms. For example, butchers and fishmongers in retail locations read recipes to follow instructions to cut and prepare products such as stuffed pork loin chops for display cases. They also read instructions in recipes to provide preparation and cooking tips to customers. They read custom cutting and seasoning instructions in clients' orders. (2)
  • Read memos from within their employers and government organizations such as provincial departments of health and agriculture, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. For example, they may read memos to learn about changes to regulations for food hygiene and handling. They read memos to learn new waste prevention procedures. (2)
  • Read operating manuals. For example, they read operating manuals in order to disassemble cutting and grinding equipment to complete cleaning and minor maintenance tasks. (3)
  • Read articles about new products, cutting, processing and marketing tips and industry highlights in trade publications. For example, they may read product reports for new beef products with lower fat content to learn cutting procedures and cooking suggestions. They review fact sheets to learn about issues such as contaminates and toxins in seafood and red meat. (3)
  • May read food hygiene and handling regulations and addenda. For example, supervisors, department heads, self-employed butchers and fishmongers read provincial ministry of health and agriculture and Canadian Food Inspection regulations to determine daily, weekly and monthly cleaning and maintenance requirements for work areas and equipment. (3)

Document use

  • Locate data on product labels and warning signs. For example, they locate certification stamps, box numbers, product codes, product descriptions and grades on container labels. They observe hazard warnings on equipment and container labels. (1)
  • Complete quality control tags and labels. For example, they enter data such as ingredients and prices into label templates. They complete product quality tags by entering dates, container numbers and their reasons for rejecting products. (2)
  • Complete order, tracking and quality control forms. For example, they complete cutting, cleaning and product checklists to record the numbers of items prepared and in stock. They complete 'cold chain' checklists and fridge and cooler temperature logs to note that proper handling procedures were followed and temperatures were maintained when transferring and preparing stock. They record customers' contact information, product details and cutting and preparation instructions in order forms. Self-employed and head butchers complete supply order and bank deposit forms. (2)
  • Locate data in order forms. For example, they locate details such as product, weights, thicknesses, preparation preferences, quantities and pick-up dates in order forms. (2)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, they locate stock quantities in inventory lists and cutting and cleaning requirements in daily job lists. They locate product code numbers and prices in price lists. Self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers locate sales data in sales reports. (2)
  • May review meat and fish cutting charts to follow cutting sequences and locate different types of cuts. (3)


  • Write brief notes in daily logs. For example, they write comments in daily logbooks to record customers' comments about products and to note concerns such as dull grinder blades, low inventory and outstanding tasks. (1)
  • Write entries for a variety of forms. For example, they enter preparation instructions and serving ideas in recipes, production sheets and customers' instruction sheets. They write customers' packaging and cutting preferences on order forms. They write narrative accounts of incidents on accident and incident reporting forms. (2)


Money Math

  • May prepare customers' bills and complete cash sales. For example, butchers and fishmongers in retail locations may total customers' bills for meat and fish products, take payments and give change. They may calculate markups, discounts and taxes. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May complete sale summaries. For example, self-employed butchers and fishmongers complete daily sales summaries, reconcile cash registers to money in tills and calculate bank deposits. (2)
  • May calculate retail costs per pound for different cuts of meat to determine the best processing methods to maximize profits. For example, butchers may calculate actual costs per pound of meat for a variety of cuts using wholesale and processing costs as factors. They divide actual costs by the percentage of useable meat to determine retail costs per pound. (3)
  • May calculate production costs for products such as haggis, sausage, mixtures for fish chowder and fish cakes. They calculate costs for ingredients and the hours required to prepare products. (3)
  • May schedule job tasks for other workers. For example, self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers establish production timelines and staffing schedules to meet daily, weekly and seasonal meat, poultry and fish product orders. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Take measurements using weigh scales, measuring cups, thermometers and rulers. For example, they measure ingredient amounts when preparing marinades and mixtures of seafood for chowders. They weigh cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish. They measure cooler and freezer temperatures using thermometers and thermostats. They measure the lengths and girths of fish. (1)
  • May calculate serving quantities of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish. For example, they may calculate quantities of meat, poultry and fish products needed for special events by multiplying typical serving sizes by the number of guests attending. (2)
  • Prepare solutions and mixtures. For example, they calculate ingredient quantities using mixture ratios. They weigh and measure out quantities and volumes for mixtures such as marinades and disinfectant solutions. (2)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compare the weights, lengths, temperatures and thicknesses of cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish to specifications to verify that they meet quality standards. (1)
  • May analyze stock movement data to manage inventories. For example, self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers analyze inventory and movement data to determine weekly and seasonal inventory quantities to order. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate the weights and thicknesses for cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish when exact measurements are not required. For example, they cut steaks and fish fillets to approximate thicknesses. They estimate weights of meat, poultry and fish products when packaging products for display cases. (1)
  • Estimate times needed to complete job tasks such as preparing roasts, hips of beef and fish chowder mixtures using their experience with similar activities to estimate times. (2)
  • Estimate the quantities of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish they will be able to sell to determine daily quantities and types of prepared and cut meat, poultry, fish and shellfish to produce. They use weekly and seasonal sales data and purchasing trends to estimate potential sales. (2)

Oral communication

  • Discuss supply orders and share product information with suppliers. For example, they order cuts of meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, spices and fresh vegetables from suppliers. Self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers discuss new products such as new breeds of cattle and types of fish and clams with suppliers. (1)
  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers and participate in staff meetings. For example, throughout work shifts they speak with other butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers to discuss job assignments and to coordinate the use of equipment and space. During staff meetings, they learn about new products and receive instructions for implementing new procedures. Head butchers and fishmongers may lead staff meetings. (2)
  • Discuss clients' orders and new products with customers and co-workers. For example, they discuss details of customers' order such as types of cuts, quantities, cutting specifications, preparation preferences and pick-up dates. They provide customers and sales staff with preparing, cooking and serving tips. They share product information such as the origins of beef and fish with customers. (3)
  • May speak with public health inspectors about quality control and code violations. For example, self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers provide inspectors with technical information such as 'cold chain,' equipment maintenance and cleaning processes. They discuss code violations, and negotiate terms for remedying defects. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Encounter packaging defects and poor quality meat products from suppliers. They tag the products and inform their managers. (1)
  • Experience low sales and the resulting overstocking of certain meat cuts, poultry and fish products. Depending on the types of cuts and products and their expiration dates, they may cut, grind, marinate and cook the meat, poultry, fish and shellfish to offer alternative products and increase the shelf life. They may reduce prices and freeze items to avoid spoilage. They reduce product inventories to minimize overstocking problems in the future. (2)
  • Find that customers are dissatisfied with products and services. For example, they receive complaints about meat and poultry being tough or fatty and fish going bad quickly. They discuss storage and cooking methods to determine if products were stored too long and prepared incorrectly. They advise customers about proper storage and cooking procedures and may offer customers free products and discounts on future purchases. (2)
  • Are unable to complete cutting and preparation tasks and keep products at required temperatures because of equipment breakdowns. They replace components such as broken blades and if necessary call service technicians and inform their managers. They move products to other freezers and refrigerators to avoid spoilage. They adjust their activities such as manually cutting meats to ensure they meet order deadlines. (2)
  • Experience reductions in sales for certain products after negative news reports about contamination and disease. They share facts about products safety with customers to alleviate their concerns and to increase their product knowledge. (3)

Decision Making

  • May decide the types of cuts and weights per item when carving wholesale cuts of meat and fish into retail cuts or small servings to maximize the yield of each wholesale cut. They are guided by specifications, but other factors such as fat distribution, weight, grain of cuts, animal breed for beef and thickness for fish filets are considered. (2)
  • May choose quantities, types and thicknesses of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish to prepare and package for display cases. For example, butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers in retail locations consider customers' purchasing trends, products' shelf lives, amounts of time needed to prepare items and expected wastage. They review past sales statistics and consider customers' requests for items and comments about products offered in the past. (3)
  • May select equipment and suppliers. For example, self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers make purchasing and renting decisions for knives and processing equipment. They consider prices, quality, maintenance service and their personal preferences. When selecting meat suppliers they consider product selection, required quantities, quality, prices and delivery options. Head butchers may require department managers' approvals for expensive equipment purchases and changes to suppliers. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • May evaluate the visual appeal of retail displays. For example, butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers in retail locations use established criteria such as aesthetics, food safety and overall neatness to judge the appeal of display cases and racks. (1)
  • Evaluate the quality of products such as meat, poultry, fish and shellfish and of supplies such as marinades, spices and fresh vegetables. They use criteria such as particular colours, smells and textures when inspecting supplies and retail products. (2)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers generally organize their own tasks within established daily schedules. Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers in retail locations respond to customers' enquires and orders while completing daily meat cutting and preparation tasks. Changing priorities and lack of space and equipment sometimes complicate their daily job task planning. (2)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers may be responsible for planning work assignments and training new workers. They plan cutting and food preparation schedules for the butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers who they supervise. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember verbal details and instructions from supervisors and customers such as the types and quantities of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish to package. They also remember customers' preferences.

Finding Information

  • Find information about new cooking tips and consumer purchasing trends for meat, poultry, fish and shellfish. For example, they read customer service sheets, magazine articles and recipes for preparing and cooking meats to share with customers. (2)

Digital technology

  • May use the Internet. For example, they may browse government websites and other websites geared towards industry highlights and cooking meats, poultry, fish and shellfish. (2)
  • May use communication software. For example, they may send orders to suppliers and receive government reports and advisories by e-mail. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets. For example, self-employed and head butchers and fishmongers may create and maintain spreadsheets for production schedules and sales data. They insert formulae to transform, summarize and automatically update data. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers work independently to cut and prepare meats. They coordinate activities with co-workers to share resources such as grinders and cutters. They integrate tasks with co-workers when moving larger cuts of meat and fish and when cleaning and maintaining equipment. (2)

Continuous Learning

Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers need to keep up to date on consumer purchasing trends, industry issues and general information about meat, poultry, fish and shellfish. They frequently read memos, bulletins, fact sheets and consumer reports provided by their own organizations, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and federal and provincial ministries. They learn new skills through daily work experiences, by observing other co-workers and by reading cookbooks and life style magazines. They may participate in training programs provided by their employers covering topics such as the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System, safe food handling and first aid. (2)