Employment and career opportunities for UK butchers

 There are numerous employment and career opportunities for UK butchers. The UK currently has around 40,000 butchers working throughout the country. However, there’s still a national shortage of people with the right skills. If you’re a young person just starting out, then you may want to consider this occupation as an option.

Starting salary and work locations

If you choose to become a butcher, your starting salary may be around £7,176 a year, depending on various factors. Some apprenticeships and on-the-job training positions are available. As a matter of fact, this is how most people enter into employment as a butcher.

You could work in a High Street butcher's shop, with a meat wholesaler, or on the meat counter in a supermarket. Once you’ve become a qualified butcher, you may also work with the Meat Hygiene Service to check standards in abattoirs and meat plants.

Typical tasks performed

Typically, butchers prepare and sell a variety of meats, including poultry products. The preparation may include making traditional cuts of meat and marinating products for summertime barbeques. You may also have to prepare specialist varieties such as gluten-free products and kosher meats.

If you choose to work in retail, as most butchers do, then you’ll be performing customer service tasks as well as product preparation. These customer service tasks can include advising customers about various cuts of meat and how to cook them. You may also have to provide a delivery service to customers.

If you work with meat wholesalers, you’ll be dealing with the carcasses that arrive from abattoirs. You’ll be preparing and storing the meat before it’s sent off to retailers and other wholesale customers. Whether working for retail or wholesale, you will have to be careful if you tend to have allergies or skin conditions.

Some other tasks commonly performed by butchers are:

• Skilfully cutting, de-boning, slicing, and trimming meat and poultry
• Ordering stock and taking deliveries from suppliers, or purchasing products from the markets
• Creating recipes, and putting them in print for customers
• Organising displays for windows and refrigerators

Employment conditions

Butchers usually work 39-40 hours a week, starting early in the morning. Deliveries commonly start arriving around 7 a.m. and require using hoists and trolleys to move the stock around. As a butcher, you’ll probably be working with a team of other butchers on a rota system. You’ll probably have to work Saturdays, and in some cases, you may have to work on Sundays and evenings too.

The work involves working in chilled storage areas, so you must be able to tolerate cool temperatures. You’ll have to wear protective clothing, such as an apron and disposable gloves. You’ll be working with sharp tools, and sometimes working around slippery floors, so you must be safety-oriented. It also involves long periods of standing, lifting and carrying heavy joints of meat, so you’ll have to have lots of stamina and strength.

Long Term Prospects

There are numerous long term prospects for butchers. Many supermarkets and retail chains offer excellent opportunities for career growth. A good butcher may be promoted to team leader, supervisor and manager levels. As an experienced butcher, you may also be able to set up your own retail outlet. Veteran retail butchers can move into meat catering, meat manufacturing or meat wholesale.

Although there’s no formal certification or education needed, many employers provide opportunities for
butchers to work towards relevant qualifications. These qualifications include NVQ's/SVQ's in Meat and Poultry Processing at Levels 1 and 2. They also include Food safety qualifications that take into account European Union hygiene regulations.

Some professional associations and councils also provide training and certification for butchers. For instance, the Meat Training Council offers Intermediate Certificates in Meat and Poultry, Meat and Poultry Management, and in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. They also offer a Management Development Programme in Meat and Poultry for team leader, supervisor, and manager levels. The Scottish Federation of Meat Traders’ offers a Craftsman Certificate and Diploma. There are numerous employment and career opportunities for UK butchers at all the various levels of expertise they may have.

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