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Meat Cutting Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Meat cutters cut, trim, fillet or otherwise prepare meat, fish and poultry for retail sale and consumption. Although on-the-job training for meat cutters is common, certificate programs are available in meat cutting, processing and merchandising. Meat science also deals with meat cutting and evaluating, and some schools offer undergraduate and graduate-level degrees in meat science.

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How to Select a Meat Cutting School

A number of colleges and universities across the country offer certificate and degree programs in meat cutting and meat science.

Considerations

  • Career goals
  • Clubs and associations
  • Facilities

Career Goals

Before choosing a meat cutting school, prospective students should be clear about the roles they wish to play within the food industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most meat cutters and processors learn from on-the-job training (www.bls.gov). However, for those wanting to seek training before entering the work force, a certificate of completion in meat cutting may be appropriate for someone who wishes to work at a grocery store or butcher shop. Some states require butchers to have health certificates, so a prospective student will want to choose a school that satisfies any legal requirements of the state in which he or she intends to work.

Clubs and Associations

An undergraduate or graduate degree program in meat science prepares students to conduct research on meat. Students may want to look for programs with clubs or other student associations that allow them the opportunity to participate in statewide and national meat judging competitions.

Facilities

Students pursuing either career route will want to consider the facilities offered before choosing a school. Students that want to work with large machinery at a slaughterhouse will need to look for a program that allows them to train on up-to-date equipment and to learn industry safety standards. Many schools have state-approved, on-site processing facilities that are used for teaching and research. Students who want to focus on research will want to select a school with updated laboratory facilities for the analysis of meat.

Meat Cutting Program Overviews

Apprentice Meat Cutter Certificate

Apprenticeships prepare students for employment at grocery stores, butcher shops or meat warehouses. Participants train on state-of-the-art hand tools and equipment as they process beef, pork and poultry products for retail sale. Apprenticeship requirements vary depending on the workplace; some require that candidates demonstrate competency in arithmetic to be accepted. While no federal guidelines for completing an apprenticeship exist, some states do have specifications, such as required classes in health and safety. Students learn about:

  • Cuts of meat
  • Retail merchandising
  • Safety
  • Sanitation
  • Terminology

Undergraduate Degree in Meat Science

Meat science coursework teaches students to judge and evaluate meat, as well as to handle meat in retail or wholesale settings. Credentials awarded can vary, from an associate's degree to a major or minor as part of one's bachelor's degree studies. Students usually complete an internship as part of their course requirements. Specific topics include:

  • Meat cutting
  • Processing
  • Cooking
  • Meat curing
  • Merchandising

Graduate Degrees in Meat Science

If a student's interests in meat cutting fall more on the side of research than retail and wholesale butchery, then he or she may want to prepare for graduate-level study in meat science. Graduate students go on to conduct research and to teach in the field of meat science. Completion of a bachelor's degree program is necessary before applying to a master's degree or Ph.D. program. Specific subfields include:

  • Food microbiology
  • Efficiency of meat processing
  • Food engineering
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