Butchers to look out for

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Where are all the Butchers? Campaign calls for more young people to become butchers

Posted on: Feb 18 2014

Pictured top: Butchery students at Leeds City College
Pictured bottom: Fabulous Bakery Brother Henry Herbert and butchery team and Hobbs House

The Meat Crusade, which campaigns to save the High Street Butcher, has joined forces with Leeds City College and, with the support of Butcher and Fabulous Baker Brother Henry Herbert, is urging young people to consider butchery as a promising and viable career path.

The Great British Bake Off craze has swept the nation with many dusting off their mixing bowls and inspiring foodies of all ages to take up a career in baking. The popularity of the show has contributed to an oversubscription of applicants to Leeds City College’s baking courses.

Meanwhile its butchery department has seen a marked reduction in applications despite the meat industry being desperate for new entrants. Leeds City College is the UK’s third largest further education establishment, with a first class reputation for its broad base of provision within the meat, poultry and related meat industries, with over 50 years’ teaching experience in the sector.

Around two out of three butchers are facing succession difficulties and the average age of a butcher is now over 50 years old. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the number of high street butchers has dropped from 22,000 in the mid-1980s to a staggering 6,553 in 2010, according to Ed Bedington, Editor of the Meat Trades Journal.

The Meat Crusade campaign was launched by farmer and meat wholesaler John Penny & Sons to raise awareness of this decline in the High Street Butcher and to get quality British meat back on our dinner tables. The campaign has gained a number of high profile supporters in food and journalism, and has this month gained the support of Henry Herbert of the Fabulous Baker Brothers and Hobbs House Bakery.

Henry explains; “It is a great shame to see a lack of younger generations learning the skills of the trade and continuing the art of traditional British butchery that is in danger of being lost. We’ve already seen a vast decline in butchers over the last ten years, and much of this is due to a desperate need for new entrants to step in and take over when older generations retire.”

John Penny of The Meat Crusade adds; “It is a great time for young people to consider a career within the meat industry. There are colleges appealing for students to enrol in butchery training courses and the industry is crying out for successors. Many people think by training in butchery they are restrained to a job as a butcher but that is far from the case - learning the skills required in butchery can open up doors to many careers within the meat industry, ranging from a production to health and safety to quality assurance management.”

The National Careers Service cites that butchers can earn between £16,500 and £22,000 or more a year with managers earning up to £30,000.

Leeds City College’s training provision covers full and part time charcuterie and butchery qualifications from Entry Craft Level and IPQ courses to a successful apprenticeship programme and bespoke programmes for industry.

Leeds City College is currently accepting applications for its Butchery Diploma (Level 2) course. The Butchery Diploma is a craft level course aimed at those new to the industry and those who are more experienced without a recognised qualification. The programme develops the necessary practical and theoretical skills requited to work in the food manufacture / meat industry.

Butchery Lecturer, James Richardson, said; “Our meat technology department is one of the few in the country delivering such a wide range of skills training.”

“We are fully equipped to train the butchers of the future, ensuring students gain knowledge and skills which can be applied in the workplace while helping to take the industry forward in years to come.”



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Rosemary Shrager

Rosemary Shrager, talented TV chef and cookery school teacher, is renowned for her role on reality TV show, Ladette to Lady. Rosemary has worked for Pierre Koffman at the famous Tante Claire restaurant in London and also for super chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.

Rosemary’s TV career began with series Rosemary – Castle Cook, followed by Rosemary on the Road, both for Channel 5. She is now a familiar face on ITV, following up her Rosemary Shrager's School For Cooks series with regular appearances on The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

It is so important to support butchers, if we do not then they will go and then we really will miss them. These people know where all their food has come from, generally sourcing everything from the local area’s farmers. Support for your butcher is support for the wider farming community.

Joanna Blythman

Joanna Blythman is Britain’s leading investigative food journalist and an influential commentator on the British food chain. She has won four Glenfiddich awards for her writing, including a Glenfiddich Special Award for her first book, The Food We Eat, a Caroline Walker Media Award for Improving the Nation’s Health by Means of Good Food, and a Guild of Food Writers Award for The Food We Eat.

We need to cherish the excellent traditional butchers who have kept going valiantly in the teeth of the supermarket takeover of our food chain. As the Meat Crusade puts it, if one in 10 of us returned to our local butcher that would be make a real difference. And if one in five of us did so, even once a week, it could start a revolution.

Brian Turner

A popular face on our TV screens, Yorkshire-born Brian’s career started in less glamorous circumstances - cooking breakfasts at his dad's transport café.

Your local butcher really cares about the meat he sells and the people he sells to. He deserves your support- let’s not lose him now.

Jay Rayner

The award winning Observer Food Critic and One show journalist.

Jay currently chairs the new Radio 4 food panel show, The Kitchen Cabinet, having recently appeared as judge on Masterchef and The Great British Waste Menu, and hosted Channel 4's magazine show Food: What Goes in your Basket?

Now, more than ever, we need to know where our meat is coming from, and your local butcher is best placed to give you that vital information. There is no substitute for buying your meat from the people who sourced it. They are the ones who know how it was raised, how it was slaughtered and how best to cook it. If we lose our local butchers we lose an irreplaceable part of the food chain.

Tom Parker Bowles

Tom is a food writer and broadcaster with a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday and is Food Editor at Esquire magazine.
His books include E Is For Eating – An Alphabet of Greed, The Year of Eating Dangerously and Full English; A Journey Through the British and Their Food. He also co-presented Market Kitchen on Good Food Channel and presented LBC Radio's Food and Drink Programme.

The steady loss of our local butchers is cause for serious alarm. Just 2 months back my favourite butcher, Kingsland and Son, fell victim to a fierce rent hike and was forced to move out. The whole area is still reeling from the loss. Because butchery is both art and science. Not just in the physical act of separating different cuts from a carcass, but the wealth of knowledge any serious butcher has; where the meat comes from, how long the beef was hung, what cuts are better suited to braising than roasting. Support your local butchers. For the sake of the community, and your taste buds too.