Online Schools for Aspiring Butchers: How to Choose

Jan 02, 2019

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online butcher school. Read more to get an overview of the program options, length factors, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Career goals will be perhaps the most important consideration for prospective butchers. Many certificate programs are available, but each will have a slightly different area of focus and may or may not offer transferable credits. In the meat cutting and meat processing sector, an associate's degree is the highest available education.

How to Select an Online Butcher School

Aspiring butchers won't have any luck finding an online school. Meat cutting programs require hands-on training that cannot be achieved online. However, on-campus programs can be found at some community or technical colleges. Students looking at meat cutting programs will need to determine their career goals and the transfer opportunities before choosing a school.

Career Goals

Students should be clear on what sort of position they ultimately want in the food industry before choosing a meat-cutting school. Certificates of completion in meat-cutting are ideal for students who wish to work in a grocery meat department or butcher shop; however, a certificate program in meat merchandising would be more appropriate for those who wish to find positions as buyers or supervisors. Associate degrees provide additional leverage with potential employers.

Transfer Opportunities

The highest award granted by meat cutting programs is an associate degree. Students who want to earn a bachelor's degree in agriculture or food safety may want to research schools offering transferable associate degrees in meat cutting.

List of Butcher Programs

Apprentice Meat Cutter Certificate

A certificate program for apprentice meat cutters teaches students how to maintain and utilize knives, meat saws, meat grinders, and other hand and power tools associated with the meat cutting profession. Students also learn how to identify, cut and display retail meat, arrange display cases and fill customer orders. Program requirements are approximately 830 hours. Coursework includes:

  • USDA grading and inspection
  • Meat cutting safety
  • Soft skills for meat cutting professionals

Professional Retail Meat Cutting Certificate

A certificate in retail meat cutting requires more than 1,100 hours of coursework and can be completed in less than one year. Core courses may include knife care, cutting equipment, USDA inspection, sanitation and grading, display and packaging, and workplace relations. Students also learn about:

  • Cured and smoked meats
  • Merchandising
  • Beef wholesale and retail
  • Wrapping and storage
  • Portion control

Meat Merchandising Certificate

A program in meat merchandising teaches students about the various cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry. The curriculum takes three semesters to complete and covers:

  • Phases of processing
  • Preparation of cuts
  • Pricing and marketing techniques
  • Catering

Meat Processing and Food Safety Certificate

A certificate program in meat processing and food safety requires approximately 33 credit hours to complete and is designed for students who are seeking immediate employment. Courses include:

  • Meat processing and merchandising
  • Livestock processing
  • Food safety and sanitation
  • Livestock and carcass evaluation
  • Food microbiology

Associate of Applied Science in Meat Processing and Food Safety

An associate degree program in meat processing and food safety program is about 64 credit hours. Coursework is nearly identical to the coursework of the certificate program, with the addition of general education requirements in:

  • Meat technology
  • Food safety and sanitation
  • Livestock processing
  • Advanced meat fabrications

Schools with Online Options for Butchers

Online coursework may be optional for some of the curriculum of interest at Olds College. For example, Animal Welfare & Humane Slaughter is a class that educates students on the challenges and the skills needed in preparing live animals for slaughter and eventual meat processing. The school offers a Meat Processing Certificate that covers topics such as cutting and sanitation. The two tracks students may choose for specialization are livestock slaughter or meat merchandising & marketing. On-site experiences are required for this program.

For a rare distance education option in a related field, you might explore the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Meat Culinology Certificate. This program is grounded in understanding the scientific principles behind meat processing, handling and production practices. All courses are available exclusively online as well as on-campus, so flexibility is a key benefit. Some prior experience in the food processing industry is recommended for high school graduates.

While exclusively online programs do not typically exist for butchers, programs that blend some online coursework with hands-on experience can be of benefit. Certificates for Apprentice Meat Cutter, Professional Retail Meat Cutting and Meat Processing and Food Safety prepare students for cutting and display. Meat Merchandising certificates or associate's degrees can also foster leadership and business skills.

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