AI leaving human butchers ‘in the shade’ and may one day ‘replace’ people

Artificial intelligence (AI) is leaving human butchers “in the shade” and could one day “entirely replace” people, it has been claimed.

Tariq Sheikh – who owns more than two dozen butchers – brought in self-service kiosks which are powered with AI when the pandemic erupted in early 2020 to allow customers contact-free service.

Despite being introduced as a temporary measure, their wide-ranging benefits quickly became apparent and they have remained at some of his 28 Tariq Halal Meat stores.

Mr Sheikh explained that the technology is so advanced they often leave his human butchers “in the shade” when it comes to his customers’ preferences and they could one day replace people entirely in certain sections of the business.

“Suggesting alternatives and knowing what a specific customer wants is something that human butchers have been doing for generations,” he explained.

“But in many ways AI does it better and quicker. It can scan our whole inventory in seconds. A human butcher would never have the time to do that. This technology will only improve, and it has got to a stage already where in many ways AI is already better than humans.

“If this continues, they could realistically replace people entirely in certain aspects of the businesses within a decade. But I don’t think that sounds the death knell for human butchers – it is still a highly-skilled job that no machine will conceivably be able to do any time soon.

“And some people will always prefer a human touch that computers and technology cannot compete with. But there are certain aspects of the trade where AI is already outstripping people by quite some margin.

“This is one of them and they have quite literally left people in the shade because they can do something so much quicker, cheaper and more efficiently.”

At its most basic level, the algorithms pick up on customers’ buying habits and send them offers and reminders. It also uses previous data to show them to see certain cuts such skin on or off, fat on or off, thickness and even which marinade to use.

As it gathers more data on people, Mr Sheikh explains it gives them suggestions on cuts that it believes the customer will like based on their past behaviour.

The firm – which is one of the UK’s biggest halal brands – has since worked with delivery firms Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat to help them enhance their butcher shop basket on each of their respective platforms.

“AI is a huge growth area and technology can offer people so much,” he said.

“From remembering customers’ credentials to suggesting they try something for the first time it really will help change the face of the industry and how we interact with many of our customers.”

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