BUTCHERS AND MEAT CUTTERS California Occupational Guide #218 Interest Area 5-E 1995
Skilled preparation of meat for wholesale or retail trade is the principal function of Butchers and Meat Cutters. Over three hundred customary cuts of meat can be made from animal carcasses for retail purposes.
Butchers usually work in wholesale meat firms. They cut larger segments of meat that come from the slaughterhouse into primal cuts (wholesale cuts which are then sent to retail establishments to be made into additional cuts). They also prepare volume cuts for distribution to restaurants, hotels and institutions. The emphasis in this work is on production.
Meat Cutters work in conventional markets or in self-service departments of supermarkets. Meat Cutters divide the primal cuts into chops, steaks and other retail cuts and also prepare poultry and fish for retail sale. Meat Cutters also may weigh, wrap, and label the cuts and arrange them in refrigerated cases for display to customers. They also may prepare special cuts of meat ordered by customers.
In wholesale meat firms, Butcher apprentices begin their training by performing odd
jobs in the plant. For example, they may learn meat pickling. Training includes instruction in the operation of such equipment as forklifts or power-driven saws and grinders. In time, apprentices gradually learn to divide whole carcasses, halves, and quarters into primal cuts. In retail establishments, Meat Cutter apprentices begin by preparing some of the cheaper cuts. They learn to bone meat and roll and tie roasts. They also learn how to set up a counter display, merchandising and salesmanship, and how to answer customer questions concerning meat preparation and cooking.
Butchers and Meat Cutters provide their own hand tools at the beginning of training. These include various knives, a cleaver, stitching needles, and a sharpening steel, that together can cost $300 or more. Employers provide power equipment, linen and uniforms (if the latter are required), as well as protective gear.
Meat cutters working in retail meat markets are subject to sharp temperature changes as they move from coun-ter to cooler and back. Butchers are usually exposed to lower temperatures more than cutters.
The occupation requires physical strength, good manual dexterity and the ability to stand for long periods. Good eyesight, agility and speed, and free-dom from communicable diseases are also essential.
Workers should not mind working around animal carcasses. Clean and sanitary work conditions prevail, however workers and their clothing are often soiled with animal blood, and their work atmosphere may often smell unpleasant.
Injuries to fingers and hands may sometimes result from careless use of tools
and equipment. The repetitive nature of the work may cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Occasionally, a worker may suffer a hernia or a back injury. Equipment guards, hand and stomach guards, and safety instruction during apprenticeship all help to prevent accidents. Employers must conform with safety orders of the State Division of Industrial Safety and provide first-aid equipment and suitable floor covering.
The following information is from the California Projections of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division.
Estimated number of workers in 1990: 20,870 Estimated number of workers in 2005: 22,110 Projected growth 1990 - 2005: 6% Estimated openings from separations by 2005: 8,640
(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)
Employment for Butchers and Meat Cutters is expected to grow considerably slower than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. Over 85 percent of the job opportunities in this occupation will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or the labor market.
At this time, work for wholesale Butchers and Meat Cutters has leveled off throughout the State. Virtually all supermarket owners order their meat from major meat processing plants located in other states. This has reduced the demand for butchers in California. The retail Meat Cutters have not been affected by the meat processing done in other states.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Entry-level Butchers and Meat Cutters start at a range of $4.25 to $8.50 per hour. With three years experience, the range is $8 to $12.75 per hour. The Journey level range is $7.25 to $15.50 per hour.
The following depicts wages for entry through journey-level for several areas of the state:
Fresno County $4.50 - $14.00/hr. *Golden Sierra Consortium 5.00 - 15.50/hr. Kern County: 4.25 - 9.98/hr. Merced County 4.25 - 14.00/hr. *North Central Consortium: 4.50 - 14.50/hr. Sacramento/Yolo: 6.00 - 15.50/hr.
* Golden Sierra Consortium: Alpine, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer and Sierra Counties. North Central Consortium: Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Sutter and Yuba Counties.
Almost all employers surveyed pay health benefits; many pay for dental, vision and life insurance, sick leave, and retirement plans. Some employers also provide uniforms.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
Apprentice Butchers or Meat Cutters must first be hired by a company that has signed an agreement with the Joint Apprenticeship Committee. Approximately 4,000 hours of supervised on-the-job training is required during the two-year apprenticeship. This training is supplemented with a minimum of 144 hours each year of related classroom training. Standards relating to both job performance and classroom work must be met before journey-level status will be granted.
Most employers prefer apprentices who have completed high school. Helpful high school courses include mathematics and any shop courses that develop skill in the use of hand and power tools. Some firms give an arithmetic test to applicants. In general, apprentices must be at least eighteen years old.
Butchers and Meat Cutters who begin work as trainees in independent shops can gain necessary skills. Ex-military cooks and butchers, adapting to civilian stan-dards, may shorten their civilian apprenticeship periods.
Personal characteristics considered desirable to retailers include willingness and ability to learn, a sense of responsibility, and a good sales personality.
After reaching journey-level status, Meat Cutters may advance to head meat cutter, assistant manager, or manager of a shop. Less opportunity exists for promotion in wholesale firms, although some journey-level Butchers advance to supervisory positions or to the job of inspector. Butchers, like Meat Cutters, sometimes become owners of retail shops.
FINDING THE JOB
The most common way to enter this occupation is through the formal apprenticeship program operated by employers. Job seekers should also contact the Job Service Office of the California Employment Development Department and the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
United Food & Commercial Workers International Union Suffridge Building 1775 K Street N.W. Washington, DC 20006 (202) 223-3111
RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES
Cashiers No. 31 Occupations in Meat Production No. 434
OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES
DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed. Rev. 1) Meat Cutter 316.684-018 Butcher, Meat 316.681-010
OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Butchers and Meat Cutters 650230
Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.