What is a Master Butcher?

People often ask us, “What is a Master Butcher?”.

While there is no official certification to become a Master Butcher, like a Master Chef, the title carries equal weight in recognition of achieving the highest level of expertise in its field. With this in mind, I spoke with one of Buedel’s own Master Butchers, Peter Heflin, to share his insight.

What does it mean to be a Master Butcher?

A “Master Butcher” is one who has knowledge in the cutting of all types of beef, pork, lamb, veal, and poultry. Master butchers understand the meat operation process from beginning to end. They know how age rotation is handled, how to make every cut of steak, roast, or chop and have a good idea of yields and cost management through meat merchandising. They also teach others how to cut meat.

In traditional butcher shops, it was a position that typically ran the whole department, from purchasing all the way down to cutting and packing. Master Butchers are fast movers and straight talkers; we’re folks that don’t relax much.

There’s a lot of toil in the meat department from set up to production, to clean up. There should be no duty a Master Butcher can’t do in their shop – that takes years of experience and training.

Why is age rotation important?

Beef needs to be properly aged to insure tenderness and flavor.  Even USDA Prime beef selected from the finest packers, will be tough and flavorless without proper age.

Age has a lot to do with consistency as well. A Master Butcher needs to assure that the meat being cut for final sale always has the same age to deliver the same tenderness and flavor as the last steak the customer bought.

The aging process is simply a breakdown process of fat and muscle tissue that makes the meat softer.  If the beef is not being aged correctly, or rotated evenly, cut steaks will not have the same taste and tenderness from order to order, which will result in loss of business.

How does meat merchandising come into play?

Meat merchandising is about getting the most out of the meat cuts for the most “value”, or money.  When primal cuts (whole loins, rounds and chucks) come in, there are many ways the different pieces can be cut up and sold.

A Master Butcher has the expertise and knowledge to get the maximum dollar for the whole piece.  This can change with the seasons, the economic climate, or even the restaurant application.  It’s never a “set in stone” procedure for every cut.

The main objective is to get the most return for every piece of meat that comes through the department. Good merchandising also creates more options for chefs and satisfaction for their customers!

A Master Butcher is many things. He or she is a master at their craft, understands the business of food and is dedicated to customer satisfaction – always.

Do you think meat cutting is a lost art?

Butcher shops, as we once knew them, have been lost  due to centralized cutting and pre-fabricated product coming from the harvest facilities, however, the art of butchering is making a comeback for sure.

We are seeing more and more chef driven butcher shops sprouting up now, due to chefs looking for cuts not always available from packers and also foodies’ desires to cut their own meat.

One of the best things I like about the Buedel team of Master Butchers is that we help all customers. We specialize in setting up cut steal programs, support those who want to cut their own steaks and chops and actually cut with them to help maximize yields. What other meat company does that?

I believe everything circles back and we are seeing the art of meat cutting returning. And that’s a very good thing for all of us!

Please feel free to contact Peter with any questions or comments. He can be reached directly at: peter.heflin@buedelfoods.com.


From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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2 thoughts on “What is a Master Butcher?

  1. Fantastic i likes that article as it will let some young chef to understant what they don’t know about cooking and butchery.

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