Scottish Craft Butchers Fair awards top talent

The cream of Scottish butchers won recognition for their talent and innovative, high quality products at the Scottish Craft Butchers Trade Fair on 14 May.

More than 500 visitors attended the event at Dewars Centre, Perth. Butchers competed for Diamond, Gold and Silver product awards across barbecue (BBQ), ready meals, ready to cook, haggis and pork sausage categories and for the title of Scottish Butcher of the Year.

In the Scottish Meat Training Meat Skills Competition, Jamie Syme of Alex Mitchell Butchers, Glenrothes, claimed the overall Scottish Butcher of The Year title, just four weeks after his baby daughter was born.

“Becoming a father is something that can’t be topped but winning this title comes close,” said 27 year-old Syme. “This is the biggest butcher title you can win in Scotland and it means everything to me. I’m absolutely delighted.”

“Being a butcher was all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he said. “I love the buzz of the shop, the chat with the customers, working with great meat and developing new products.

“I’m over the moon to win this title as I wanted to give something back to my boss Alex for all he’s done for me. I’m the last apprentice he will ever take on and winning the Scottish Butcher Of The Year title shows ‘the boy done good’.”

Syme came top in one of the two age group categories in the Meat Skills Competition, the over 22 division. In the under 22 camp, Ryan Briggs of AJ Learmonth Butchers, Jedburgh, was chosen.

“This is just amazing,” said Briggs. “I’m absolutely blown away to win this. This is the life I want and winning this title at 18 is a brilliant boost for me. My Dad was a butcher to trade and has always encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. This win will make him so proud.”

Event head judge Keith Fisher – one of the most experienced meat skills judges in the world and CEO of the Institute of Meat – said the two winners displayed “outstanding” skills. “Every year the standard gets higher,” he said. “I know the industry in Scotland is in safe hands when I witness the skills shown by these butchers.

“Their enthusiasm, skill and passion shines through in all they do and both our young and senior champions are more than deserving of their titles. They are shining examples of the extremely high standard of butcher we enjoy in Scotland.”

In the Scottish Haggis Championship 2017, a phalanx of top class butchers from five regions of Scotland battled for first place, but in the end, JB Houston of Dumfries won the crown.

Kirkcaldy’s The Buffalo Farm, from the East of Scotland region, outgunned the other four regions to claim first place in the Scottish Pork Sausage Championship 2017.

The Diamond award for best overall BBQ product went to Cairngorm Butchers in Grantown-on-Spey for its ‘Mexicanese’ Pork Spare Ribs.

In ready meals, Mearns T McCaskie of Weymss Bay scooped the Diamond Award for its Braised Ox Cheek in Creamy Mash. Kirkcaldy-based The Buffalo Farm clinched Diamond for its Stroganoff Onion Bombs in Ready to Cook.

Visitors were also entertained by contestants in the Devro Linking Challenge. Jenna Smith of Lochee, one of two female entrants, ultimately proved herself to be champion sausage linker on the day, with a formidable 70 sausages linked in one minute.

Smith's achievement was particularly impressive in view of the fact that she was competing with an injured finger against several other entrants.

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