What is Butcher Paper?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Butcher paper is a type of coarse, sturdy paper that is used to wrap meats and fish. In addition to being used by butchers and fishmongers, it is also utilized by crafters. The sturdy construction makes it ideal for a wide assortment of crafting tasks, and rolls of this paper are commonly found in schools and art departments since it is cheap and easy to work with. Many art stores sell it, and it can also be ordered through paper supply companies.

Butcher paper is used to wrap raw meats and fish.
Butcher paper is used to wrap raw meats and fish.

Wood for butcher paper is pulped using a technique known as a kraft process, a pulping process that retains the cellulose in the wood to create a stronger end product; the word kraft is German for “strength.” The pulp tends to be coarse and grainy, since the wood fibers are left more intact, and it is classically brown in color, although the paper can be bleached and dyed. Colored butcher paper is often used for craft projects, and some butchers use white paper to wrap their products since it looks cleaner.

Colored butcher paper can easily be trimmed to the correct size for art projects by using a gridded cutting mat.
Colored butcher paper can easily be trimmed to the correct size for art projects by using a gridded cutting mat.

It is common to find butcher paper that has been waxed or oiled to resist leaks. This type is usually marketed for actual butchers who need to be able to wrap products that may be moist. Typically, a butcher will also wrap the meat or fish in tissue, to avoid handling it directly, and the tissue helps to provide a further barrier between the meat and the outside world. Crafting paper is usually left unwaxed, as the wax will create resistance, making it hard to paint, draw, or use other marking utensils on the paper.

In most cases, butcher paper is available by the roll. Rolls of varying sizes are available, and many paper companies sell dispensers along with their rolls to make it easier for people to handle the paper. The dispenser features a sturdy bar to hold the paper, along with a jagged edge to pull the paper against in order to tear off a sheet. The edge of a sheet can be quite coarse, as the edges are usually left blunt to prevent injuries. The paper can also be cut with scissors.

In addition to being used for arts and crafts and food, butcher paper can also be used as a form of plain wrapping paper, which can be useful for shipping parcels through the mail. Oiled paper is also a useful tool for protecting tables and other surfaces from messy food or crafts projects. A small roll can be a useful thing to keep around the house.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


One of the weirdest restaurants I ever went to used black waxed butcher paper for their table covers.

I'm used to seeing the while butcher paper covers, but it was off putting to see a restaurant use black butcher paper.

Maybe their butcher paper dispenser was only selling black that week?


Have any teachers out there ever included butcher paper on school supplies list? My daughter's teacher is asking for a roll of recycled butcher paper, and a butcher paper cutter.

Is this normal? I never had anything like this when I was going to school -- and that stuff is kind of expensive!


Ah butcher paper. My mom always had a butcher paper roll around the house for us to draw on and use for projects. I never did understand the difference between Kraft and butcher paper though -- they seem like the same thing, but when I go to buy butcher paper sheets now, it's like they've got two kinds, Kraft and butcher. Are these the same thing, or are they different?

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