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Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: 10,001 to 25,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $921 to $1050 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief A leg of lamb, a fillet of beef or veal cutlets? While we owe our choice of meat cuts to the skills of a butcher, most would tell you that these days cutting, boning and slicing are only part of the job. Butchers are equally dedicated to reducing customers' preparation time, by 'value adding' to our meats.

There are approximately 1200 Butchers working in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time with most working in the Retail Trade industry. Majority of butchers are males and in the 15 – 34 year age group.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Butcher

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When we experience the pleasure of sitting down to a roast dinner, most of us acknowledge the skills of the cook. We should also spare a thought for the butcher who carefully selected and cut the prime section of lamb or beef. More often than not these days he/she also added a mix of herbs and spices.

Most of the butchers employed in South Australia work in retail outlets. They are trained in selecting, cutting, trimming, preparing and then displaying meat for sale. Retail butchers order their carcasses from a meat wholesaler or abattoir, where butchers are also employed. The day starts at around 6am for a butcher and according to a butcher proprietor, his apprentice starts by dressing the shop window with various cuts of meat.

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Education Requirements

Currently 65% of the workers in the industry have a Certificate III or IV. 30% have no post-school qualifications but it is strongly recommended that further study is undertaken if you want to be competitive in the industry.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Meat Processing and Diploma of Meat Processing (Meat Retailing). Pathways include Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services)or Meat Processing (Meat Retailing), Certificate III in Meat Processing (Retail Butcher), Meat Processing (Boning Room), Meat Processing (Meat Safety), or Meat Processing (Smallgoods-General), Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Meat Safety) or Meat Processing (Quality Assurance).

Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA such as Interactive Smallgoods or Sausage Making.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

Employment prospects, particularly in specialist butcher retail outlets, are excellent according to employers and industry representatives. An ageing workforce, a national skills shortage, low numbers in training and moderate job turnover have contributed to the positive employment outlook.

Butchers are employed in small or large retail businesses or supermarkets. Some are self-employed. They also work in wholesale and export businesses, where they prepare meat for local consumption or for export. Qualified butchers may have the opportunity to become involved in other areas of the hospitality and food industries, such as meat and meat products inspection, export and associated services.

It is a fairly large occupation. Employment prospects for butchers are improving because of the trend towards fancier meat cuts and products, an ageing workforce and low numbers in training. Openings for apprentices are generally good.


Retail Trade,  Wholesale Trade


Belinda Potter - Meat Processing
“At TAFE, you get to try different things that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to learn about”.

Belinda had not always imagined becoming a Butcher. After finishing school, Belinda had first planned to join the Navy and with a change of direction decided to try meat processing after she had experienced working in the industry. “I’m working in an industry that I didn’t think I would be in,” she said. “I tried it and wanted to continue.”

Belinda chose to study the Pre Vocational course, gaining the Certificate II in Meat Processing over three years and chose to study at TAFE because she knew that it would be the best way to get a job. “Employers would then look at the qualifications, rather than seeing that you’re starting from scratch,” she said.

Studying at TAFE also gave Belinda wider knowledge of the industry and the type of work involved before starting in the job. “At TAFE you get to try different things that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to learn about,” she said.

Belinda won the award for most proficient final year student and also entered the WorldSkills competition in 2003. Her goals are to continue to learn more about the industry. “It could potentially lead to working in your own place, doing meat inspection, managing the meat room, or even managing a whole store,” she said.

Belinda recalls enjoying the environment at TAFE. “It was relaxed compared to school and it’s an adult atmosphere. You’re there because you want to be there,” she said. “You can take on learning and push yourself as much as you want and it’s enjoyable.”

Nature of the Job

'Then he'll look at the day's orders for both raw and prepared (value added) meats. These days, instead of the customer taking home a lump of meat for $10, many are prepared to pay $12 and have it prepared for them,' says this butcher.

Value adding, partially or fully preparing meat, has become a significant and creative part of a butcher's role. Busy people are delighted not to have to prepare their own kebabs, or stuff their rolled beef, or marinate their veal. These days, butchers even provide customers with meat that has been partially or fully cooked. 'It's a good thing to become a butcher nowadays. It's exciting and the level of training that apprentices receive is outstanding,' he says.

Butchers, who are employed in retail outlets, have lots of customer contact. 'I love the people that I meet. They always seem to be happy, because they're excited about having a dinner party or having a nice roast. It's a very relaxing work environment, there are always jokes flying about among butchers,' he says.

Typical Physical Working Environment

A fourth year General Butcher apprentice says he became a butcher because of his interest in food preparation and his decision not to go on to university. 'I'm learning new things all the time and it's creative because there are many different ways to cut meat.' He has scooped numerous awards, can look forward to reducing his apprenticeship from four to three-and-a-half years because of his outstanding effort. He recommends that people considering this occupation have excellent hand-eye coordination, be willing to do routine tasks and have good customer skills.

Typical Occupational Example

Because their main tools of trade include knives, meat cleavers, the mincing machine and the slicer, a butcher's work environment can be hazardous. The work floor can often be slippery. And, because meat needs to be stored in extremely cold conditions, the working environment can be chilly.

For further information, contact:

AgriFood Skills Australia
Phone: (02) 6163 7200

Australian Meat Industry Council
Phone: (08) 8272 2400

National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC)
Phone: 1800 817 462

Earning Potential

Qualified apprentices can earn about $25,000 which may go as high as $40,000 for more experienced butchers. For those in a management role, salaries can reach much higher than this.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online