What Is The History Of Butchers

colorsandspices's picture

Nov. 09, 2010

While many of the meat lovers cherish the delicate taste of a myriad of meat preparations, I am sure very few of them have knowledge on what is the history of butchers. The history of butchers is certainly as old as the human civilization, as in primitive times the human race used to depend only on the natural foods which also included different types of animal meats. Although, initially they were unaware about the techniques of butchery, but with the invention of various stone and metal tools they gradually learned to cut the meat in smaller shapes before roasting them in fire. Depending on the timeline, we can divide the history in three major parts, earlier history, medieval history and recent history.

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Earlier History of Butchers

As mentioned before, several evidences have been discovered to justify the history of butchery in ancient time. Archaeologists recovered primitive tools like sharpened stake, which supposed to be used for hunting and butchering animals in pre-historic days. Slaughtered remains of giant tortoise and giant sloth have been discovered in Florida, which also indicate the existence of ancient butcher shop. Butcher shop was also present during the Roman civilization period. An ancient relief work from Rome depicts a butcher shop, where the butcher is busy in his work with the help of a cleaver. The relief also displays a butchers table for dressing the meat and hooks for hanging them. In London the earliest history of butchers has been recorded to 975AD, when the butchers used to meet regularly at the Butchers Hall located in various parts of the city.


Medieval History of Butchers

During the medieval time, the profession of butchery became a reputed one as they had the responsibility to prepare the proper cuts of meat in most hygienic way. During the meets in the Butchers Hall, they used to discuss on ways to improve their skills. Back in 1272, the butchers of England formed guilds, to strengthen their community. In Europe, the butchers from the town of Cesky Krumlov took a major initiative to form guilds in the 16th century. This guild issued several rules and restrictions for slaughtering animals, such as the slaughtering could be performed only at the mentioned slaughterhouse and not in private houses or meat market. The town of Cesky Krumlov grew up with the help of these skilled craftsmen. However, during the mid 19th century, the guilds became extinct with the influence of new economic situations. The island of Guernsey near France became renowned for its meat market during the early 19th century. Many of the butchers from this island later settled in United Kingdom and got known as Guernsey Butchers.


Recent History of Butchers

Off late, the profession of butchering has acquired much skills and techniques. A professional butcher has to study a lot to learn on this subject. Several associations of butchers have started to provide first class training and education in managing the meats. A new Butchers Hall was built in Bartholomew, which received renovations even in 1996. Nowadays, the butchers can have respectable positions at the supermarkets, meat markets, grocery stores or famous meat processing companies.  To become a master butcher, one might require going through apprenticeship for at least 3 years.


Image Courtesy: ckrumlov.info