Butchers or meat cutting technicians cut, prepare and sell meat in a butcher's shop or a supermarket. They order the animal carcasses from the wholesalers and package meat for display in refrigerators.
Butchers usually break down and bone animal carcasses to saleable cuts of meat for customers and cut and tray different styles and types of meat for display and sale. Some butchers wrap and weigh selected meat, for example steak, roasts or sausages. They need to ensure that meat products are cut to company and customer specifications.
They may make mince, sausages and other small goods. They also cure, pickle, dry-curry and smoke meat. They mix brines, phosphate and nitrate solutions to cure the meat. Intestines are cleaned and soaked to use as sausage casings. The waste from slaughtering operations, such as cartilage and tendons, are used for pet food.
Butchers often help customers to choose meat products and give advice on uses and cooking methods. Butchers also help to train other staff and are involved in forecasting customer needs and planning future meat requirements. They need to maintain a hygienic working environment, sharpen and maintain knives and butchery equipment and do stock-taking.
Butchers need to have skills in handling, preparing and presenting meat products. They need to have customer service and listening skills, and organisational ability. They also need to be able to calculate how much meat they need to get from a carcass in order to cover costs.
They need to know about different cuts and grades of meat, methods of cooking it and how long it will remain fresh. They need to know how to use knives and other butchery equipment safely. They should also be familiar with food hygiene legislation and regulations.
A significant change in the meat retail industry in recent times has been the growth in boning and cutting wholesalers. Wholesale butchers break down the carcass and box it, and the meat retailer orders boxed cuts from the wholesalers. As a result many retail butchers no longer need to break down and bone whole animal carcasses before cutting the meat into customer and company specifications. Despite this change, cutting and boning skills remain important for butchers and continue to be part of the training that butchers receive.
Butchers use knives and saws for cutting and trimming. They use machines for mincing, grinding, slicing and weighing. They also use automatic wrapping machines and safety equipment such as gloves.
Although butchers’ workplaces are usually clean and sterile, they often become messy and bloody as a result of working with animal carcasses. The processing room is also cold, with the temperature usually around 10 degrees.
Butchers usually work regular hours, but they are often required to start early in the morning. Butchers who work in supermarkets often work weekends and at least one late night a week. Some butchers may do local deliveries, but otherwise there is very little travelling involved.
Butchers work as part of a team and may have a lot of contact with the public. They may also supervise assistants or trainees and often have contact with meat wholesalers, especially if they are managing a meat department or running their own business.