Become a Meat Cutter: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 02, 2019

Find out how to become a meat cutter. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in the meat cutting industry. View article »

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  • 0:01 Meat Cutter Career Info
  • 0:53 Work at a Butcher Shop
  • 1:48 Consider Formal Education
  • 3:09 Advance to Management

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Video Transcript

Meat Cutter Career Info

Degree Level None; certificate and degree programs available
Degree Field Meat merchandising or marketing or a related field
Experience Up to 2 years of experience may be required
Key Skills Concentration and coordination; use of dangerous knives and equipment, including grinders, tenderizers, saws, slicers, and scales; customer service, listening, and teamwork skills
Salary $29,130 (2015 median for meat cutters and butchers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings from September 2012

Meat cutters, also known as butchers, prepare cuts of meat for customers according to their specifications. They may also monitor inventory and take care of knife and equipment maintenance. Additional job duties include properly displaying food for customers and cleaning meats and fish. Meat cutting can be physically demanding - standing for extended periods of time, lifting heavy objects, and spending time in meat storage 'cold rooms' are all part of the job. Because of meat cutters' use of dangerous tools and machinery, this profession may lead to a high rate of injury.

Meat cutters should have concentration and coordination to work with dangerous equipment, but they should also have customer service, listening, and teamwork skills. In 2015, meat cutters and butchers in the United States earned a median annual salary of $29,130, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Work at a Butcher Shop

Becoming a meat cutter typically does not require a formal education, and many meat cutters gain experience working at a grocery store, butcher shop, or meat processing plant. Hands-on experience is one of the most important factors for a career in meat cutting. It typically takes two years of on-the-job training to be considered a highly skilled meat cutter. Mastery of basic skills - such as shaping simple cuts of meat, bone removal, and trimming - is required before a trainee gains the techniques to cut large, wholesale pieces of meat. Meat cutters also receive education in safety, inventory control, curing meat, and basic business operations.

Meat cutting can be a physically taxing profession, since meat cutters spend long hours on their feet, carry heavy cuts of meat, and work in hot and cold environments. Developing a fitness regimen may help meat cutters build stamina and deal with the physical strains of the job.

Consider Formal Education

Though securing a job as a meat cutter does not require any formal education, aspiring meat cutters may wish to consider entering a certificate or degree program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that holding a degree may help applicants enter the meat cutting profession and may be required for advancement within the field. Formal education programs can help students gain a better understanding of the industry and the methodology of meat cutting. Both certificate and associate's degree programs are offered at community colleges, technical schools, and other institutions. Certificate programs may be completed in a year or less; subjects covered include knife care, sanitation, custom meat cutting, pricing, preparation of cuts and chops, meat merchandising, and food safety. Associate's degree programs cover many of the same topics, while also covering general education topics, such as composition and history.

Some formal education programs offer the opportunity to complete internships. Students in internships gain real-world experience with professionals in the industry and may be better equipped to enter the workplace after graduation. In some certificate and degree programs, students may have the chance to select electives in relevant topics. Taking an elective in a subject such as computer skills or job-seeking skills can help students gain important proficiencies that can help secure employment in the field.

Advance to Management

Meat cutters with around one to two years of work experience can advance to managerial positions. Meat department managers' additional job responsibilities can include supervising employees, managing sales reports, and ensuring workplace safety.

Once again, no formal education is required to work as a meat cutter; however, completing a postsecondary program in addition to gaining hands-on experience might help butchers advance to management positions.

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