Is your business world-class?

Local butchers have been enjoying something of a renaissance over the past couple of years.

Whether situated on a secondary local parade, in a village, town high street or at the farm gate, shoppers are returning to seek them out - and this week that fact is recognised with the launch of a new competition by the Meat Trades Journal called simply Butcher's Shop of the Year.

The event builds on the popular and much-loved Top Shop Awards, looking at all aspects of life in the butcher's shop and covering the entire UK.

Judges will seek out the best, the innovative, the unique and the unusual from town, rural and farm shops wherever they trade. The culmination will be a celebration awards lunch at a new venue, the plush Claridge's Hotel, located in the heart of central London on 7 November.

Quality local produce is capturing the imagination of a public that wants to know what it is buying, and where it comes from, as well as advice and tips on what to choose, how to cook it and methods of serving. The local butcher's shop is pivotal in meeting this need and in re-skilling the consumer in their home kitchen. UK butchers are driving change as an antidote to the mass-market offer of the supermarkets - and are doing it very well.

The Butcher's Shop of the Year Awards are the only UK awards to exclusively recognise this vital sector of the market, and to reward vibrant, progressive, locally based businesses.

Launched specifically to champion best practice in the local meat chain, through the producer and processor to retail, the awards set out to recognise high standards of service, presentation, skill and initiative.

The awards are also a celebration of the incredible work being done in this sector, whether through selling game, speciality sausages and pies, or by widening the butcher's and farm shop offering through diversification to include a wider range of goods and services. Among the aims of the new awards will be to:

The Butchers' Shop of the Year Awards will be broken down into the following regional competitions:

? Scottish Butcher's Shop of the Year

? Northern Ireland Butcher's Shop of the Year

? Welsh Butcher's Shop of the Year

? North England Butcher's Shop of the Year

? Midlands & East Butcher's Shop of the Year

? Southern Butcher's Shop of the Year

? Farm Shop of the Year.

From these seven category winners an overall winner will be named Butcher's Shop of the Year. To enter the competition simply apply for an entry pack and fill it in. Compiling the entry pack is not as daunting as might first be thought, as there are easy-to-follow questions to answer that should give the judges a really good indication of what the business is all about. The best packs will be selected and the shops visited. Judges will look for:

? Shop display and layout

? Meat quality and cutting

? Staff efficiency and appearance

? Work and co-operation with others in the supply chain

? Marketing and promotion

? Forward planning and diversification

? Work in the local community

Ed Bedington said: "Journal readers are encouraged to nominate butchers they feel are worthy of a Butcher's Shop of the Year Award. We'd love to hear who you think are the best ones and, importantly, why."

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