Do You Need Culinary Training to Become a Butcher?
Almost all great chefs have butchering skills. You’ve seen them on television and in the kitchen—with a huge knife and a whole lot of speed, these professionals go to work breaking down whole chickens, de-boning fish, and taking apart huge cuts of beef.
In a good culinary arts program, butchering will be part of the curriculum—if not a whole class, then at least a large part of one. That’s because butchering, like any prep work, is important for getting the right flavors, right portion sizes, and right consistencies in cooking times.
However, butchering as its own profession, is a lot more than just breaking down a few chickens. The butchers you see working at grocery stores, specialty shops, and industrial processing plants know how to use a variety of different tools (knives, grinders, saws), and can create large quantities of product that retain quality throughout their distribution.
How to Become a Butcher
Most culinary schools and vocational training centers aren’t going to offer a course or degree program on becoming a butcher. With ties to a centuries-old practice, butchering is still one of those fields that relies heavily on the apprenticeship approach.
In exchange for a few years of work at a lower rate of pay, you can learn all you need to know about being a butcher through hands-on learning.
Of course, apprenticeships in butcher shops aren’t exactly easy to find, either. In many cases, this is still very much a family trade, and you will need the right connections to get into an entry-level position.
This is where a culinary degree might come in handy. Having those two to four years of formal training might be what you need to convince employers that you are serious about the trade and want to dedicate your life to learning to be the best.
Some specific butchering programs do exist to help you boost your resume, as well, if you can find them. For example, look for programs that offer a certificate in meat cutting or even an Associate of Applied Science in meat processing and food safety.
Why Culinary Training Might Help Even More
Although still popular in some parts of the country, most butcher shops aren’t able to succeed by providing all meat, all the time. As more and more specialty and niche restaurants develop, butchers have had to change their approach.
Combining a butcher’s shop and a deli, or providing gourmet foods and cuts of meat that appeal to a higher-end clientele, are both approaches that have met with success in the past.
That’s where your culinary degree might also come into play. If you can sell yourself as both a butcher and as a forward-thinker with plans to expand into the culinary world, you can meet with great success and enjoy a long and fruitful career!
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.