Butchery competition heads to annual Skills Show

Six of the industry’s top butchers are set to battle it out at the inaugural Butchery WorldSkills UK National Final at Birmingham’s NEC.

The competition starts today as part of The Skills Show, the nation’s largest skills and events showcase, and ends on Saturday with the butchers giving a demonstration of their abilities as they await the results at an evening presentation event.

The six finalists progressing to the finals were scored as the top competitors in combined heats in Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

Twenty-three-year-old Matthew Edwards, of Vaughan’s Family Butchers in Penyffordd, Daniel John Allen-Raftery, a butcher and slaughterman from Randall Parker in Llanidloes and Peter Rushforth, a 20-year-old butcher from Swans Farm Shop in Mold will be representing Wales.

Going into this competition, Rushforth hopes that previous experience will help pave his way to glory. The young butcher represented Great Britain at an international butchery competition celebrating the industry’s next generation, held in Utrecht, Holland.

“It’s very similar to the international competition I did recently, which has set me up quite well,” he said. “The competition covers every aspect of the trade and it would be a hell of an accolade to if I could win it.

“Matthew and I have been head to head for quite a long time and it will be nice to see who comes out on top in this competition. Everybody will be at the top of their game.”

Edwards was also part of the team representing Great Britain in the Netherlands.

“The final is going to test every aspect of my butchery skills and it’s going to be an intensive two days,” he explained.

“It will be one of the best competitions I have ever done and I hope to win it. I haven’t stopped practising since winning the Wales heat. I know I will have to be at my best to win because of the quality of the competition.”

Allen-Raftery, also representing Wales, said he was excited for the competition to begin: “I am looking forward to competing against seasoned competitors from all over the country and seeing the different style of butchery and products. In the meat trade you never stop learning.”

Those representing England are John Brereton, 41, butchery manager at Ludlow Food Centre in Ludlow, alongside Matthew Parkes, 21, assistant manager for Walter Smith Fine Foods shop at Melbicks Garden Centre, Coleshill.

“There are certain disciplines that are not in my comfort zone, so I have practised those areas and I hope to win the competition,” said Brereton. “It’s not just about winning, though, it’s about what you learn from competing as much as anything else. The competition makes you find the time to look at new product development and at new ways of doing things.”

Parkes’ training was hindered by two weeks’ jury service; however, he remains optimistic going into the competition. He said: “I would love to get a top three place, but to win the final and say I am Butchery WorldSkills UK champion would be an amazing achievement. I have been looking forward to the final for so long as it’s the biggest competition I have ever done.”

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Dylan Gillespie from Clougher Valley Meats, Co Tyrone will be competing on behalf of Northern Ireland.

“It will be a great experience and I will be doing my best to win,” said Gillespie. “It’s only my second competition, so to win would be really good for me and also Clougher Valley Meats.”

The skilled butchers will be tested with five tests to compete over two days. The themes for the tests include: ready-to-eat products, sausage-making, barbecue products, kitchen-ready products and a boning and themed butchery display.

The purpose of the WorldSkills UK National Skills Competitions is to promote apprenticeships and training programmes within selected industries. The butchery competition has been organised by Welshpool-based Cambrian Training Company and has brought together the meat industries key players to create this new butchery competition.

“We are all really proud to bring butchery to the Skills Show for the first time,” said Arwyn Watkins, Cambrian Training Company’s managing director.

“This is the skills showcase for butchery and we hope to make this inaugural competition one of the main features at this year’s Skills Show so that there is continued support for future years for butchers.”

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