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Welsh butchers honing skills as they bid to become world champions

A team of talented Welsh butchers is stepping up training and honing skills in preparation for the World Butchers’ Challenge in the United States this autumn.

Craft Butchery Team Wales will make its debut at the global competition, which will be contested by 14 countries in Sacramento, California on September 2 and 3. Defending champions are Celtic cousins Ireland.

The team, formed in 2020 and managed by retired butcher and experienced competition judge Steve Vaughan from Penyffordd, is a division of the Culinary Association of Wales.

Team captain Peter Rushforth from Innovative Food Ingredients, Lytham St Annes, is joined by Craig Holly, from Chris Hayman Butchers, Maesycymer, Hengoed,

Tom Jones from Jones Brothers, Wrexham, Matthew Edwards, a lecturer at Coleg Cambria, Connah’s Quay, Dan Raftery from Meat Masters Butchers, Newtown, Liam Lewis from Hawarden Farm Shop and Ben Roberts from M. E. Evans Butchers, Overton-on-Dee.

Team sponsors are the Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry, Atlantic Service Company from Newport, Kepak from Merthyr Tydfil, AIMS (Association of Independent Meat Suppliers), Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Innovative Food Ingredients, M. E. Evans Butchers, Dick Knives and Tiny Rebel.

With butchers from across the globe battling it out to become world champions, the competition is often referred to as the ‘Olympics of Meat’.

The competition is conducted over three hours and 15 minutes, with competing teams given a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens which they must then transform into a themed display of value-added products.

Teams are allowed to provide their own seasonings, spices, marinades and garnish to finish products that are designed to inspire and push the boundaries, yet which are also cookable and would sell.

Independent judges score each team based on technique and skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation.

Ben Roberts will represent Wales in the World Champion Butcher Apprentice competition. Modelled on the World Butchers’ Challenge, butcher apprentices have just two hours and 15 minutes to break down a range of primal cuts into a display of pre-determined products and their own creations.

Craft Butchery Team Wales co-ordinator Chris Jones, head of Cambrian Training Company’s food and drink business unit, praised the commitment of the team members who meet weekly and train every fortnight.

“It’s an entirely new experience for the butchers because this will be their first team competition and they don’t come any bigger than the World Butchers’ Challenge,” said Mr Jones, who will be Wales’ judge at the competition.

“What they lack in team competition experience, they more than make up for in commitment and dedication. They are a tight-knit group that has known each other for a long time and training is going really well.

“They are all understandably proud to be representing Wales, because not many people get that chance, and we shall be doing our utmost to fly the Welsh flag with style.

“It’s a far bigger competition this year than it has been in the past, so Wales will not be the only country making its debut.”