Meat and Fish Markets
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Description of Business
Establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of fresh, frozen, or cured meats, fish, shellfish, and other seafood.
General Industry Information
Meat and fish markets with paid employees numbered 7,214 per the 1997 U.S. Census count. In contrast, the most recent census reported 5,848 employer meat markets, reflecting a decline in these businesses. The trend can be attributed in part to increased competition from giant grocery stores and warehouse stores that sell similar products. Approximately $4.35 Billion in meat products were sold as of the recent census, or $743,844/firm.
Butchers and meat cutters are employed at the retail level. Fish cutters and trimmers, also called fish cleaners, are likely to be employed in both manufacturing and retail establishments. These workers primarily scale, cut, and dress fish by removing the head, scales, and other inedible portions and cutting the fish into steaks or fillets. In retail markets, they may also wait on customers and clean fish to order. Butchers frequently receive pre-cut parts of meat and will often customize an order to fill a customer’s request.
Meat and fish markets are well equipped with refrigeration equipment to prevent viral and bacterial infections that can occur in environments with flesh matter. In most states, a health certificate is required. Automation techniques and the consolidation of the animal slaughtering/processing industries are enabling owners of meat markets to minimize the amount of meat cutting and packing that takes place in retail shops.
The outlook for this industry appears to be changing. More jobs involving cutting and processing meat are moving away from retail stores and into food-processing plants, reducing the need for butchers at the retail level. However, as the U.S. population grows, the demand for meat, poultry, and seafood should continue to increase, sustaining a base market for professional butchers. In addition, the significant increase in asian immigrants over the past 15 years has lead to an increase in demand in major metropolitan areas.
Red Flags and Risks
There is a large risk of worker injury in this business. Injury risk is a direct function of meat cutting and the level of cleanliness of the facility. The inherent risks are associated with slippery materials that fall on the floor, and bacteria/ viral infections that can occur from unsanitary work spaces. Unclean or damp floors increase the likelihood of slips and falls. Common injuries include cuts and occasional amputations, which occur when knives, cleavers, or power tools are used improperly. Both risk factors can be minimized by retailers if they purchase pre-cut meat from wholesalers. Cleanliness of the facility can be maintained by hiring additional help and training workers to maintain clean working environments (Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004 by Bureau of Labor Statistics). Seasonality of the financial statements should be considered by a potential buyer. Summertime sales are particularly higher than at other points during the year. Lastly, buyers should consider the product turnover when purchasing a business. When working in a perishable foods business, it is important to gage the inventory turnover to reduce waste and get a sense of the business flow.
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