Training need not be dull and can even be exotic. Ed Bedington reports on a special course for English butchers... in Denmark
Mention the word training to most youngsters, and the likely reaction would be one of bored resignation.
Heading b ack to school or college is not likely to float many young trainee-butchers' boats. But if you could offer them the opportunity to travel to a foreign country, meet people from across Europe, have a good time and even learn some useful butchery skills, then you might have trouble stopping them.
The respected Danish Meat Trade College (DMTC), based in Roskilde, Denmark, not far from Copenhagen, is offering a fantastic opportunity for UK butchers to send their trainees on a 10-week basic course on pork butchery - and at a bargain price. The course itself is completely free, with trainees only having to pick up the bill for accommodation and food, amounting to €100 a week, or around £70.
The college is about to embark on a new programme, beginning on 12 February, and is actively seeking trainee butchers in the UK market. The course, in English, is fully subsidised by the Danish government as part of an EU intitiative. It is designed to give an essential grounding in the preparation of pork, and the college says it is aimed at anyone looking to develop a career in the meat industry, particularly trainees working in retail or in pork cutting and de-boning plants. There is a strong focus on developing commercial knowledge.
Staffordshire-based farmer Simon Stone is one participant who has benefited from the course. He travelled to Denmark last March to take part and said he found the experience invaluable.
"I'd been interested in butchery for a while and, although a dairy farmer by trade, my aim is open a farm shop. I wanted to learn butchery techniques from a different angle."
Simon saw an article on the course in a local newspaper and promptly signed up: "I went out there not knowing a thing and came back with a wealth of knowledge," he says. He is now utilising his new-found skills to provide his own pork to farmers' markets and local residents in Stone, Staffordshire, with the aim of opening his own shop next year.
Part of the course included spending time in a retail environment and the college has its own butcher's shop, which sells everything the students produce to local residents. Simon says the experience was invaluable: "I spent three days in the shop and learnt more about retail butchery and retail cuts. It was different to traditional butchery, as they de-bone everything and cut along the seams."
Language proved to be no barrier either: "I was the only English guy there, but had no problems. Everyone was very nice and spoke good English."
He thinks the opportunity was not to be missed: "The whole thing was very good value. For small local producers, Denmark is a fantastic opportunity to learn new cutting techniques and bring them back home to use in your business."
While the practical side of the programme includes areas such as cutting and de-boning, the theory includes pig anatomy, welfare (including transportation and treatment) and slaughtering. Efficient production methods and regulation on areas such as hygiene, safety and the environment are also covered.
The DMTC is probably the only vocational meat industry training college that has EU-approved, full-scale facilities for slaughtering and de-boning, killing approximately 1,220 pigs and a number of cattle each week for training purposes.
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