Hampshire's next generation of butchers prepares to take on the professionals

Hampshire's next generation of butchers prepares to take on the professionals

A group of apprentice butchers studying at Sparsholt College near Winchester are busy practising their sausage-making skills as they prepare to enter the Great Hampshire Sausage & Pie Competition 2014.

It is the first year that the competition has been open to apprentice and student butchers with a new category for Young Sausage Makers. The annual competition is a key event in the calendar of local butchers with 170 entries made to last year’s event.

The Sparsholt College students, aged between 16 and 19, are studying Diploma for Proficiency in Meat and Poultry Industry Skills – Butchery which involves one day a week at college and the remainder of their time is spent working in industry. The course includes theory and plenty of practical lessons often incorporating butchering for local businesses such as helping with the slaughter, plucking and preparing of turkeys during the busy Christmas period.

The students are looking forward to showing off their skills at the competition and have been working hard at college and with their employers to come up with winning recipes. The panel of professional judges will be examining the sausages against a strict set of guidelines focusing on appearance and colour, texture and structure, taste and smell and ease of cutting.

There appears to be some friendly competition amongst the students as they are keeping their recipes very close to their chests. Ben Hemming is an apprentice at Randall Parker Foods and is pleased to be attending this year’s competition: “I’m looking forward to seeing how we rank compared to other butchers.”

The group’s tutor, Dennis Cowx, smiles when asked who he thinks could win from the group: “They all have their individual strengths when it comes to sausage-making – it’s going to be too close to call.”

It is heartening to see Hampshire’s next generation of butchers so engaged and eager to succeed in their profession. Some of the apprentices are following in the footsteps of their parents whilst others enjoy the combination of physical and skilled work with customer service. Connor Edmonds, age 19 is an apprentice at Griffin’s Butchers in Newbury, enjoys the variety of the profession and course: “I like helping and talking to the customers. Butchery is a skill and you need to be strong as sometimes you can be lifting up to 65kg of meat. The course teaches us how to provide the best cut of meat and gives us the opportunity to visit farms, abattoirs and other butchers as well as completing qualifications such as first aid and health and safety.”

The competition is organised by Hampshire Fare and will take place on Tuesday 18th March. It is being sponsored by Dalziel, Lucas Ingredients and BPEX and supported by New Forest Marque. The event is open to Hampshire butchers and apprentices only.