What’s it all about then?
As a butcher your role is literally hands on and you’ll be responsible for cutting and preparing various meats, either for a large processor or in a smaller retail shop.
You could be working as part of a team or by yourself but, either way, you’ll become highly skilled at what is a very rewarding profession.
Large meat processors supply their products to a wide range of businesses such as supermarkets and restaurants, whilst the smaller retail butcher will sell directly to the customer.
What might I be doing?
Your work will vary from one company to another but is likely to include the following:
- Working with a knife to slice, bone, trim and dice a variety of meats
- Using knife skills to prepare portions or cuts of meat for customers
- Striving to continually reduce waste
- Using suitable equipment to safely sharpen knives
- Handling and preparing animal carcasses
- Receiving and inspecting meat deliveries to ensure quality
- Weighing and wrapping meat for customers
- Advising and serving customers to meet their needs
- Arranging and displaying meats attractively
- Rotating stock and displays to keep waste to a minimum
- Maintaining a scrupulously clean work area
- Effectively communicating with customers
- Working with other butchers as part of a team
- Observing food safety and health & safety procedures
What will be expected of me?
You’ll be working with extremely sharp knives so steady hands and a common-sense attitude to safety is vital. This means understanding and heeding instructions and the ability to concentrate and focus on your work.
You’ll be expected to be friendly and approachable and able to deal with customers if you’re working in a retail shop; your expertise will extend beyond recommendations to customers to actually being able to suggest the best way to prepare the meat they’ve purchased.
What can I expect?
Butchers are required to spend a lot of time on their feet so you’ll need enough stamina to be able to successfully fulfil the role; and remember that boxes of meat can be extremely heavy, so a certain level of physical strength is required.
At least part of the environment will be refrigerated so you can expect to be cold at least part of the time.
The working week will typically be 40 hours but this may well increase at times of peak seasonal demand such as Christmas, or when the weather influences customer demand for barbeque food.
As you’ll be working with animal carcasses there will be certainly be some blood and bones, although much less than many people think.
In fact, butchery factories and retail shops are always kept extremely clean and the strictest standards of hygiene are maintained.
What about the pay?
The pay varies depending on your qualifications and experience.
If you commence work as an Apprentice after you have completed your GCSEs, then you will be paid the appropriate wage for this age group. Many companies and businesses pay more than this and, if you demonstrate high levels of motivation and rapid improvement, you’ll soon find that your pay will rise quickly.
Companies and retail butchers want to retain and develop their best staff and are prepared to pay well.
A fully qualified Master Butcher could earn around £30,000 per year!
What qualifications do I need to get in?
You won’t need any formal qualifications to kick start your career as a butcher, although of course you could do some courses to get yourself started. There are several specialist providers around the country.
Many butchers start their career with an Apprenticeship, and this is a really good way to learn and earn money at the same time. Many employers prefer if you have a good standard of literacy and numeracy so it’s a good idea if you can try to pass your English and Maths qualifications before you leave school. If you don’t then these will form part of your Apprenticeship so don’t panic.
What about further training?
Most training occurs ‘on the job’ within the work setting and you will very likely spend time with a mentor who will ensure that you learn how to do your job correctly.
You may also get teaching time with a more senior butcher.
There are loads of qualifications that you can study, and these include food safety and meat trade courses which help to enhance your career prospects.
In time you may have the opportunity to study to become a Master Butcher, which is the highest level of expertise in the butchery field.
You could also join a professional association which could be beneficial for you in broadening your network of contacts and learning from other butchers.
Anything else I might need to know?
Yes, butchery is a skill for life which can open many doors within the meat and poultry industry and lead to a variety of career options, within either a factory or retail environment.
The meat industry is always on the lookout for skilled butchers and, with the average age of retail butchers on the increase, this could be a great opportunity for a young person who is prepared to work hard to really set themselves up for life.