9 facts why being a butcher is harder than you think
1. it takes years of learning theory, training & skills development
Learning about animal anatomy and the different cuts is only half the battle. The art of butchery takes a skilled hand and expert knife skills to truly respect the animal and produce the best cuts for customers. It’s harder than you’d think and takes years to learn properly.
2. ONE MISTAKE COULD MEAN LOSING AN ENTIRE CUT
Being a butcher has a very steep learning curve, especially as you’re dealing with a product that has a high monetary value, meaning wastage needs to be minimised wherever possible. If you’re frenching a rack of lamb with a ham saw, you have to go through bone that’s less than an 8th of an inch. If you cut towards that bone just a little too much, and it snaps, it’s game over, you lose the entire rack of lamb. That’s not only bad for business, but it’s bad for the customer, as they’ll be without a delicious centre piece for their Sunday lunch!
3. BUTCHERS HAVE TO KNOW THE SCIENCE OF TEMPERATURE AND AGING
Because it impacts the meat’s flavour. For example, a “soft freeze” is considered around -5°C, but that’s much colder than you’d keep a steak meant to age (around 1.1°C). To age meat is to let its own enzymes break down the meat, a natural chemical reaction that enriches the flavour. A butcher has to treat every cut of meat as a dynamic thing, which considering there are dozens of different cuts, is no mean feat!
4. ONCE MEAT IS BUTCHERED, IT REQUIRES EAGLE-EYE INSPECTION
All meat is aged, in that you’re not chewing on a live cow. When we sell “aged” steaks it means cuts left in a special cooler at a temperature from -1.1°C to 1.6°C. The meat loses a substantial amount of water while it sits, which enhances the flavour (and is why some distinguish this process as “dry aging”). But while the flavour is enhanced, the meat becomes susceptible, meaning the butcher needs to keep a close eye during the aging process to ensure the perfect cut for every customer.
5. BUTCHERY IS DANGEROUS
Every butcher worth their salt has a story about a co-worker, mentor or themselves that would make you wince. Dealing with complex machinery and razor-sharp knives every day, is an occupational hazard. We’ve got keep our wits about us and implement extensive health and safety measure, checks and training to ensure our working environment is safe. No wonder butchers are considered samurais of the high street!
6. WE STAY UP-TO-DATE ON FOOD TRENDS, AS WELL AS RESPECTING THE TRADITIONS
Gone are the days of meat and two veg dinners. Today’s worldly customer is well-travelled and informed, meaning we need to keep up-to-date on the latest food trends. From the internet and television, to cookery books and food bloggers, everyone’s looking for the next big thing in food. That will inevitably trickle down to the day-to-day shopping habits on the high street. As skilled traditionalists, we also can’t let the old cuts die out. As an age-old trade, butchers have been serving customers for centuries, offering up the best of British for hungry families. From Barnsley chops to wagyu steak, we need to be across it all.
7. INCLUDING EXOTICS AND RARE BREEDS
Despite the rise in vegan and vegetarian options, the demand for quality meat continues, which nowadays includes an increasing number of requests for more exotic and rare meats. Crocodile anyone?
8. PASSION OVER POUNDS
Most butchers do the job as they’re interested in the profession, or come from a long line of butchers. Keeping a family-run business operations is often a strong deciding factor for those who venture into the world of butchery. While traditional butchers are making a resurgence, salaries and job openings for skilled butchers aren’t abundant.
9. WE'RE CONSTANTLY LEARNING
Nearly every butcher will tell you the same thing: conservatively, it takes at least a year of dutiful apprenticeship before you can start handling things on your own. Even then, a good butcher is always a student of their craft; since butchery is a hands-on profession, it’s easy to overlook how much consideration and experience informs our work.
Got more questions about butchery? Speak to us next time you’re in the shop, we’d be happy to chat.