Retail Foodservice

Case-ready meats and poultry fill the void of traditional butchery shortage

Photo: Shutterstock

In many cases, the butcher has gone the way of the candlestick maker and, to a lesser extent, the baker.

In-store butchers are still a fixture in some supermarkets. But a variety of factors have come together over the years to relegate butchers to more limited hours and roles or to specialty markets that emphasize old-school butchery and service.

“There has been a shift in the craft of butchery over the last 20 years or so. As grocery stores and large-scale distribution centers have changed and there are more streamlined efficiencies, butchers aren’t as common or perceived as integral as they used to be. Butchery isn’t part of the curriculum or part of college coursework compared to previous years, either, so it’s harder to train people as appetencies,” says Kent Harrison, vice president of marketing and premium programs for Tyson Fresh Meats.

Data confirms that vocation is dwindling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the number of butchers in the country at around 135,500, and projects a job outlook growth rate of 3%  through 2028, slower than the average rate for all occupations.

As the shortage of butchers continues, case-ready meat and poultry is becoming increasingly important to food retailers. Although grocers still have staff in the meat department, case-ready proteins make sense for those who produce, purvey and purchase meat and poultry.  “If you look at the cost of labor at retail in a tight labor market, compared to the efficiencies of putting case-ready product into the meat case, it’s a no-brainer from an overall economic standpoint,” points out Harrison.

Case-ready programs also allow retailers to provide the growing variety of cuts that today’s customers are seeking. “Having a reputable and trusted case-ready source becomes even more important,” Harrison says.

Given its sizable portfolio and scope of business, Tyson offers a wide selection of case-ready protein products, typically packaged in a tray and overwrap and sent to retailers in an atmosphere-controlled mother bag to maintain freshness. 

“It looks as if it’s a butcher-cut product in appearance,” says Harrison, adding that demand is there for items ranging from single portion cuts to family packs to larger portions for the upcoming holiday season.  “We have options for large retailers of the world but also have a universal program that allows us to produce everyday cuts that consumers want to a broad spectrum of stores that need to augment their case ready program or start a case-ready program.”

While butchery may be a slowing profession, meat expertise is always needed. In addition to providing helpful handling and cooking information on the package, Tyson works with retailers to educate meat department employees about case-ready products. “One example is our Chairman’s Reserve line, where we have developed training and certification on the product and its quality for retail employees,” Harrison says. “So, regardless if they are cutting meat or not, meat department staff can speak accurately to consumers who want to know more about what they are buying.” Tyson also works on other initiatives to provide information to consumers, which is as important as the quality and variety of meat offered.

To learn more about Tyson’s case-ready proteins, visit

This post is sponsored by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.


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