Breaking into this occupation takes diligence. Many of those working in the retail industry start out by working in another department within the store first, getting to know the meat department staff, and then serving a period of time on the "extra" board floating among the other stores in the region before finding a permanent position.
Josh, a meat cutter at the Scappoose Fred Meyer store, has been in the industry for about 20 years. He started out at a small independent shop and moved to another retail store before landing his current job. He enjoys the camaraderie of working with a small group of peers and emphasizes the need for good people skills in this position. "You need to have a good work ethic and be able to produce product quickly," says Josh. It's a physical job that entails not just cutting and trimming meat, but also setting up the service cases, maintaining a clean work environment, assisting customers, and getting along well with your co-workers.
Heather, a 20-year veteran meat cutter at the Saint Helens Safeway store, says she likes the consistency of the job, knowing what to expect each day when she comes to work. Organizing the meat cases, filling racks, writing orders, cutting meat and seafood, and providing customer service is how most days are spent. Heather started out as a courtesy clerk at the store and later applied for the store's apprenticeship program in the meat department. For those interested in this field, she advises them to demonstrate interest and "be persistent" regarding openings.
You can find meat cutters all across the state. However, the Oregon Coast, with the seafood processing industry, and Oregon's dense population centers with more retail stores have a higher share of the state's employment in this occupation.
Meat cutting and trimming skills are typically learned on the job. Beginners start out with easier tasks like making simple cuts, removing bones, preparing sausage, and curing meat. With more training they learn how to prepare various cuts of meat and proper use and care of tools and equipment. Table 1 lists the skills most requested by Oregon employers in their meat cutter job listings in the past year, according to the Oregon Employment Department's iMatchSkills job matching system.
|Top 20 Skills Most Requested by Oregon Employers for Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers|
|Follow safety procedures|
|Use knife to trim fat and defects from meat, fish, or poultry|
|Apply health and sanitation standards|
|Weigh and package products|
|Maneuver heavy objects|
|Use basic mathematics|
|Identify cut and grade of meat|
|Explain meat cutting and preparation|
|Use and maintain knives, hand saws, and bandsaws|
|Keep production records|
|Use evisceration techniques|
|Work as a team member|
|Hand pack products for shipment|
|Operate mechanical shell shucker|
|Maintain consistent quality|
|Apply quality assurance techniques|
|Prepare and package goods for shipment|
|Inspect products for quality or damage|
|Source: iMatchSkills job matching system from 7/1/12 to 6/30/13|
The 2013 average annual wage for meat cutters was $25,264, substantially lower than the average wage across all occupations in 2013 of $46,400. Average annual wages are highest in the Salem Metropolitan area (Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties) at $31,347. Northwest Oregon had the second highest average annual wage for this occupation at $30,826, followed by the Central Oregon area of Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties at $29,398 annually.