Meatcutters work with large portions of slaughtered animal carcasses. They are typically responsible for butchering and for breaking down these large portions into an array of standard cuts of meat. Meatcutters may work in either a retail store or an industrial setting. They employ a variety of tools ranging from simple knives to large saws and grinders.
In the past, much of the meat processing done throughout the world was in the hands of butchers. Butchers typically operate in small shops and generally handle every step in the preparation of an animal carcass for sale. They also often fulfilled particular customer requests for specialized cuts of meat or non-standard types of meat preparation. As the food industry has grown and as industrial methods have been applied to the process of animal slaughter and preparation for sale, the number of butchers has decreased.
Meatcutters do much of the same work that butchers once did, but their work is typically broken down into smaller tasks. A meatcutter working in a large processing facility, for example, might simply be responsible for breaking carcasses down into large component parts. These pieces would then be processed in a retail setting by other meatcutters, who would prepare ground meat, steaks, and all the other typical cuts of meat.
Some grocery stores have replaced butchers with meatcutters entirely. In some cases, this is simply a matter of semantics, and the cutters handle all of the custom meat preparation duties that butchers once took care of. In other cases, stores have moved to standardize the production of packaged meat for consumers, often in an effort to reduce costs. In such stores, a meatcutter would simply prepare a set standard assortment of cuts of meat from each large section of meat that arrived for sale.
The work done by meatcutters is generally carefully monitored by health and safety inspectors. This oversight is intended to minimize the risk that pathogens will enter the food supply. Additionally, safety inspections of meat preparation facilities are important, as the meat cutting industry is one in which unsafe labor practices can cause very serious harm to employees.
A meatcutter will spend much of his or her day working with sharp knives, powerful mechanical grinders, and power saws. These tools are all safe, but require skilled and careful operation. A meatcutter should expect to be trained in the safe use of these tools, and wears a variety of protective garments to minimize the risk of personal injury as a result of accidents or errors.