The old-fashioned concept of the neighborhood butcher has almost completely passed into memory. While some neighborhood butchers are still around, the job has a much different look than it used to. A career as a butcher is still viable, but the working conditions, work sites and even some of the tasks required bear little resemblance to the job as portrayed by the character of Sam the butcher on “The Brady Bunch.”
The predominant places of employment for butcher is in meat processing warehouses, grocery stores, wholesalers from which restaurants receive their meat supply, and institutions including restaurants, casinos, hotels and hospitals. The neighborhood butcher shop that was a staple of American society for the first half of the 20th century still exists, but their numbers have been drastically reduced over the latter half of the past century.
Butchering tasks typically include sliding raw meat into more identifiable selections like chops, steaks, roasts and ground beef. Butchers use equipment including power slicers, knives, cleavers and even handsaws to cut through bones. Other chores include weighing cuts of meat, wrapping meat and labeling it for consumer consumption.
The working conditions for a butcher are not suitable for everyone. This job very often requires long working hours in rooms kept cold and damp in order to prevent the meat from spoiling.
Butchering can also put a significant strain on the body, so the job does require some physical fitness. A butcher needs to have stamina and strong feet and legs in order to be able to stand for extended periods of time. The repetition of cutting meat can eventually cause great strain on specific parts of the body.
Health and Safety
Safety is a primary issue when it comes to the job handled by a butcher. A butcher spends much of his day handling sharp blades. Knives can slip from the hand and easily slice through skin. The larger pieces of equipment capable of slicing a piece of meat thin enough to look through must be handled with great care to avoid slicing off a finger. Adding to the danger of butchering work is that often the floor is made slippery from animal blood and small pieces of meat. Aside from the risk of amputation of a digit or serious injury to a hand, butchers must also face back strain, leg pain, sore feet and repetitive motion disorders. Less common, but still possible health and safety dangers includes trauma to the eye from flying slivers of bone.
Getting a Job
Getting a job as a butcher is usually accomplished through apprenticeship programs or on-the-job training. The skills required of a butcher do not normally require higher education. Obtaining work as a butcher at higher level of employment requires learning and perfecting skills that could take as long as two or three years to master.