Thursday, 17 April 2014

How an international butchers’ challenge is helping share good practice

On Sunday July 6 this year, three great nations will draw knives against each other – but in the nicest possible way. Great Britain will take on Australia and New Zealand in the Tri-Nations Butchers’ Challenge. It will be the first time GB has hosted the contest, the second time we have been involved, but the third time it has been held between Australia and New Zealand (it was formerly called the Test Match).

Six butchers from each country will join forces to try to outdo the other teams with a demonstration of cutting and imaginative presentation after being presented with a whole lamb carcase and a side of beef.

They will have just two hours to showcase their skills – and those of the industry – to judges and visitors to the Great Yorkshire Show where the contest will take place. The teams will then be whisked down to London for the announcement of the winner and the presentation at the Supermeat and Fish Awards the same night.

Independent judges provided by the three competing countries will score the teams based on butchery skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish, presentation and/or display.

Teams are allowed to provide their own seasonings, spices marinades and garnish to finish products that are designed for a modern retail outlet. They can also provide their own props by way of plates, bowls and signage. Apart from that, its all about cutting, skill and imagination.

The banter between teams has already started with online profiles on dedicated Facebook pages and some press interviews in the three countries. But underneath all this are some important messages. It is about showcasing the industry, sharing good practice and encouraging carcase utilisation, productivity, and sustainability. It may be a fun format, but it is designed to benefit the butchery sector internationally.

The competition itself – won last time by the Kiwis with the Brits in third position – is the culmination of a 10-day study visit by the teams from the other side of the world, hosted by The Q Guild of butchers and EBLEX. There will inevitably be some sight-seeing, but there will also be farm visits, retailers visits, industry networking and a summit to look at the state of the industry, where butchery goes next and what needs to be done to attract the next generation of butchers to the industry.

It is no secret that the number of independent butchers has been falling in the UK for a number of years and this is something that needs to be addressed. We also need to look to reduce waste, selling cuts not carcases on a global market to where there is demand, and ensure the work that a butcher does on the high street is acknowledged and valued by consumers. This is all wrapped up in this one project. And as David Lishman, GB team captain said: “It’s also important for us to demonstrate to those involved in livestock rearing how much effort and skill goes into their carefully-nurtured produce once it has left the farm.”

If you want to keep an eye on things are progressing or find out more about the teams, you can like the Facebook page.