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Meat N’ Greet: Shop Butcher Equipment

Butcher shops are one of the oldest types of commercial businesses.  As long as people have been on Earth, and until the end of the human era, people will eat meat.  There will perpetually be a need for a butcher wherever civilization pokes its head, so it is no wonder these shops are plentiful in the United States.  Opening a butcher shop, however, can often be easier said than done.  To simplify this process, let’s take a look at the three main steps a piece of meat takes in between entering a butcher shop and heading out the door with a customer. 

Step 1 – Preparation

When large cuts of meat first come into a butcher shop they need to processed and prepared for sale.  There are a number of pieces of equipment and smallwares necessary to make this happen.

  • Meat Saws – The first tool to be used with most large cuts of meat, meat saws, (both hand held or automatic) are an absolute necessity in a butcher shop.  Many butcher shops tend to have both a meat band saw and a hand held saw.  An incredibly large cut of beef, for example, can be difficult to work with on a band saw.  Having a hand held meat saw allows employees to break incredibly large cuts down into workable sections.
  • Butcher Knives – A full set of butcher and preparation knives will be required in the prep area of any butcher shop.  Cutlery such as butcher knives, cleavers, boning and filet knives will be needed to “fine tune” individual cuts of meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Chopping Blocks – Chopping blocks and commercial cutting boards should be readily available in every butcher shop.  Cutting and chopping are essential when preparing meat for sale, and there must be adequate cutting areas for all employees processing meat.
  • Portion Scales – Portion scales are must when making specific cuts of meat or portioning out things like hamburger or sausage.  Dishwasher safe scales tend to work best in this environment as scales in a butcher shop tend to need to be cleaned and sanitized quite frequently.
  • Meat Grinder – Butcher shops make their own ground meats, but require different commercial meat grinders to accommodate varying volumes of meat.  Larger operations tend to do better with an electric meat grinder, rather than traditional manual meat grinders, as they can continually grind large quantities without employees having to turn a crank.
  • Meat Mixer & Sausage Stuffer – Many butcher shops make a variety of different sausages to sell in house.  To make large batches of sausage a meat mixer will be needed to blend the meat(s) and spices.  These manual mixers are the best way to blend large quantities of meat without over processing it.  Once the meat is mixed, a sausage stuffer will be needed to make links.  Some higher volume businesses, however, will purchase sausage stuffer attachments that work with their electric meat grinder / planetary mixer.
  • Hamburger Press – Many butcher shops offer pre-made burger patties for customer convenience.  After the hamburger is blended with spices and whatever other ingredients business owners decide to add, the meat is then placed in a burger stamper / press to mold it to a specific shape and size.  Hamburger presses are the best way to ensure your hamburgers are consistent, and there are a number of different presses on the market that press patties of varying sizes.
  • Vacuum Sealer – Many butcher shops use vacuum sealers to both seal and preserve cuts of meat being refrigerated / frozen.  Vacuum sealers not only extend the life of meat stored, but also create wonderful point-of-sale packaging for meat products.
  • Sinks – Sinks are essential in every commercial food preparation environment, and a butcher shop is no exception.  Hand sinks, dish sinks, and mop sinks are all necessary in the prep area of a butcher shop, as cutting meat can be a messy process.
  • Various Other Tools – There are a number of various smallwares that many butcher shops invest in to accomplish specific tasks to their product offerings.  Things like meat tenderizers, jerky shooters, and meat pumps / injectors often find themselves in butcher shops, but are not the only smallwares or tools that may also be necessary.  Examine your intended product offerings, and determine if there are any specialty tools needed for your business.

Step 2 – Storage

Before and after meat is prepared it needs to be stored properly.  Here are the main pieces of refrigerated storage equipment found in a commercial butcher shop.

  • Walk-In & Cold Storage – A walk-in cooler is absolutely necessary in a commercial butcher shop.  Meat needs to remain refrigerated, and since butcher shops work with such large quantities, there is no realistic way to operate without one.  Additional refrigerators may be necessary in the BOH, but that is dependent on the flow of the prep area and the amount of space in the walk-in.
  • Shock Freezer – A shock freezer can be necessary for a business that offer frozen meat products to customers.  A shock freezer quickly drops the temperature of food products into “safe zone” temperatures, and can quickly take prepared meats and freeze them for sale.
  • Refrigerated Display Case – The FOH of a butcher shop must have a refrigerated display case.  These display cases brandish your business’s wares in an eye-catching way without sacrificing the quality of the products being display; an essential function when selling meat or fish.
  • Display Freezer – For those businesses that do offer frozen meat or seafood a display freezer will be necessary.  There are very few frozen display cases, so most business opt to offer their frozen products in a merchandising chest freezer or an upright merchandising freezer.

Step 3 – Sales

Once your meat is safely prepared, stored, and displayed, you will have to portion and wrap your meats for customers.  Here are the three most important things you will need to do this (aside from a register).

  • Price Calculating Scale – A programmable price calculating scale makes selling a wide variety of meats easy.  Rather than having to tally a price by hand after weighing out the desired product, a code or price can be entered and a label printed.  This speeds up the customer service process, and doesn’t leave much room for error (opposed to human calculations).
  • Paper Cutter – The preferred method of wrapping meats for customers is with a roll and paper cutter.  Paper rolls are less expensive than plastic bags, and allow the various ubiquitously shaped meats for sale to be wrapped easily.
  • Roast Beef Tyers – Roast beef tyers are used to net and wrap large portions of meat for customers.  A roast beef tyer may actually make more sense being placed in the BOH, however they are a fundamental part in selling larger cuts of meat.

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