12th October 2022

Olympics of Meat: At the cutting edge of butchery talent 

By Gordon Newlands , Brand Manager at QMS

The World Butchers’ Challenge, otherwise known as the ‘Olympics of Meat’ recently look place in Sacramento, California, bringing together butchers from across the globe for a test of workmanship, meat cutting and displaying. 

I was fortunate enough to judge at the competition, which saw participating teams granted a three hour and thirty-minute period and a side of beef, side of pork, a whole lamb and six chickens to then transform into a themed display of value-added products.  

The 13 teams, deriving from Great Britain and various other corners of the world, were allowed to bring their own signature seasonings, spices, marinades and garnishes to the iconic Golden One Centre venue, tasked with creating products that pushed creative boundaries, yet were still cookable and sellable in a retail setting.  

As judges, we were on the lookout for technique, skill and precision; product innovation; efficient yet hygienic working; minimisation of carcass waste and ultimately, cohesive teamwork. What I witnessed exceeded all expectations and watching some of the world’s best butchery ambassadors break barriers on the world stage was both a source of inspiration and celebration of the craft inherent to the trade. 

Team GB’s performance was nothing short of outstanding. Following an intense selection process, the lead up to the event saw months of training, discipline and sacrifice for our final six men and women, including Scotch Butcher Club member, Barry Green from Cairngorm Butchers in Grantown-on-Spey. Despite it being his first time performing in an international setting, Barry excelled in both his individual tasks, and unofficial role in boosting morale and holding the team together. Combined with his exceptional talent and technique, Barry’s work ethic is unmatched, embodying everything the modern butcher should be. A true ambassador for the UK, he is the ultimate role model for any young person considering the trade.  

With that in mind, the World Butchers’ Challenge is more than just the competition itself. The butchery industry is global, but when teams and industry professionals get together, and discuss the challenges they are collectively facing, it doesn’t feel like that. Regardless of the continent, we are all striving for the same goal: excellence within our red meat sectors, and to be the best we can be, for years to come. 

Across borders, our community is battling labour shortages and recruitment struggles however, and generating a pipeline of eager, disciplined and skilled young recruits has become the mission of many. With the prestige and publicity of events such as the World Butchers’ Challenge, we hope to inspire the next generation to pick up a cutting knife of their own, and pursue the career that is brimming with heritage, comradery and craftsmanship.  

As well as attracting a 2000-strong in-person, and very enthusiastic, crowd, the competition was livestreamed on YouTube, allowing members of the public to watch those butchers at the top of their game showcase their abilities. If seeing teams representing their nation encouraged just one young person to consider the trade, I would argue that our job is done.  

Admittedly, competitive butchery may not be for everyone, but it’s important to have awareness, and aspirations, about what is possible: whether that’s winning the world title, receiving awards and accolades within the sector, or simply doing an excellent job of serving your local community. If we, as an industry, can continue translating this positive messaging to the younger generations, then we should be on the correct footing for a thriving UK butchery industry for the decades ahead of us. 



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