Whatever their reasons, I'm not complaining. During the last two years I've received numerous cuts of meat from my generous parents. Each time I unwrap a steak or roast, I pause to admire the excellent slicing and packaging work performed by the butcher. It inspired me to learn more about this small, specialized occupation.
Butchers and meat cutters spend the majority of their time preparing cuts of meat, and are required to carefully follow health, sanitation, and safety standards. Almost all of these workers must have a Food Handler's certification. Additionally, butchers are usually responsible for some basic business activities such as inventory management and providing customer service. A review of job listings posted with the Oregon Employment Department shows that employers request non-meat and meat-related skills about equally (Table 1).
There is no formal education requirement for this occupation, although individuals with post-secondary training have a competitive advantage in the labor market. Employers generally provide on-the-job training to new workers. Simple cutting can be learned in a relatively short period of time, while more complicated cuts require several months of training. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, "Apprentice butchers can spend several years learning the skills and building the strength they need to become fully qualified butchers."
|Skills Most Often Requested by Oregon Employers for Butchers and Meat Cutters|
|Skill||Number of Job Listings|
|Follow safety procedures||85|
|Provide customer service||84|
|Apply food handling rules||84|
|Wrap and label products||80|
|Apply health and sanitation standards||80|
|Weigh and package products||79|
|Use and maintain knives, hand saws and bandsaws||77|
|Identify cut and grade of meat||74|
|Procure and store meat||74|
|Source: iMatchSkills Job Listings, 2010-2012|
Despite its small size, this occupation is expected to see healthy growth during the next 10 years. From 2010 to 2020, the number of butchers and meat cutters in Oregon is expected to grow about 16 percent, the same as the statewide average rate for all occupations. The total number of job openings is projected to be somewhat higher than the statewide average, with about 23 brand new positions each year and 46 job openings from people who retire or change careers.
Butchers and meat cutters are located all around the state, with the largest number of workers in the Portland metropolitan area. Their geographic distribution generally follows the average distribution of workers in the state. The only exception is in Southern Oregon: about 10 percent of Oregon's butchers and meat cutters work in Jackson or Josephine County, an area that accounts for only about 6 percent of the state's workforce.
The average entry-level wage for butchers and meat cutters is about $10 an hour, which is somewhat higher than Oregon's minimum wage. The average wage is $16 an hour, and the highest-paid workers make more than $22 an hour.