Welsh butcher returns from US fact-finding mission

One of Wales’ top young butchers has flown in from San Francisco with a set of new skills he hopes will help bring innovation to north Wales. 

Peter Rushforth (pictured, left), of Swan’s Farm near Mold, was awarded a grant from Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) that allowed him to spend a month Stateside, studying American beef butchery.
The main purpose of the visit was to discover ways to add value to the forequarter, to find alternatives to the UK’s lower-cost mince usage and to look to introduce cooked and cured meats to Welsh Lamb and Beef products.

To achieve his mission, he visited a host of businesses. This included the Animal Meat Research Centre at Nebraska University (where he was shown around by student Kelan Heart, pictured right), charcuterie specialists Olympia Provisions and Tails & Trotters, both in Portland, Oregon, and Gary West Meats in Jacksonville, Oregon. His final stop was at cured meat specialist retailer Belcampo Meat Co in San Francisco.

“I really enjoyed the trip, it was a real eye-opener and I have come back with some great ideas, but probably not the ones I thought I would have before I left!” said Rushforth.

During his time abroad, the young butcher learnt how ground-breaking research led to a $1.5 billion (bn) dividend for the US red meat industry in the past year by identifying new steak offers for parts of the carcase that would previously have been consigned to diced or minced beef sales.

“It’s an astonishing $1.5bn growth in 12 months and that works out at a gain per carcase of US$70 extra,” explained Rushforth.

During his visit, he wanted to find out what had made beef jerky such a successful snacking option in the US. During his visit with Gary West Meats, owner Paul Murdoch guided him through the curing process. “It’s more of a meat stick, cured outside but with more moisture, so it’s a much tastier chew for the consumer and it has given me the idea of how to make more of our silverside and topside sales in north Wales in the summer, in particular,” commented Rushforth.

It was Rushforth’s desire to learn and translate his knowledge into new business opportunities at his shop that caught the eye of HCC’s Scholarship team. Alongside beef breeder Richard Roderick of Usk, he was awarded 2017’s study tour.

“This year we were very pleased to offer the HCC Scholarship to two exceptional individuals,” added James Ruggeri, HCC’s industry development executive. “Both Richard and Peter are extremely motivated and ambitious and I am sure their findings will make a sound contribution to the advancement of the red meat sector in Wales.”

At 21 years of age, Rushforth has already been presented with the Young Butcher of the Year award 2016 by Meat Trades Journal, as well as becoming HCC’s Welsh Young Butcher Champion in 2014 and 2015. Last year, he also won the gold medal in the WorldSkills butchery challenge.

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