Talented Welsh butcher Ben Roberts has won a bronze medal at the World Champion Butcher Apprentice competition in Sacramento, California.
Ben, 30, from M. E. Evans Butchers, Overton-on-Dee, represented the Craft Butchery Team Wales in the competition on Friday at the World Butchers’ Challenge, often referred to as the ‘Olympics of Meat’.
He had to wait until an awards ceremony in the early hours of this morning – UK time – to discover the result and was overjoyed to have finished in the top three. Ten apprentice butchers from around the globe competed, with the Craft Butchery Team Wales making its debut.
“Wow, third in the world,” was Ben’s reaction after receiving his bronze trophy. “I just want to thank everyone who has backed and supported me through this incredible journey. A huge thank you for the mega support from all the lads in the team, our sponsors and my family.
“It was an incredibly tough competition and the skill level, as you would expect for the ‘Olympics of Mat’, was very high. It was challenging with the variation in meat between the USA and UK, but I am proud to have given it my all and have hopefully done Wales proud.”
In the team competition, which took place on Saturday, the Craft Butchery Team Wales didn’t make it into the top three on their debut but team co-ordinator Chris Jones was proud of the Welsh butchers. Thirteen national teams competed.
“I am super proud of all the lads,” he said. “They have all worked their socks off and did Wales proud in the competition against the best butchers from around the globe.”
In his competition, Ben had just two and half hours to break down a range of primal cuts into a display of pre-determined products and his own creations.
The team competition ran 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 had to transform into a themed display of value-added products.
Independent judges scored each team based on technique and skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation.
The competition was hosted at the Golden 1 Centre in Sacramento and the awards ceremony was held at the city’s Memorial Auditorium.
Formed in 2020 and managed by retired butcher and experienced competition judge Steve Vaughan from Penyffordd, near Wrexham, the Craft Butchery Team Wales is a division of the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW).
Arwyn Watkins, OBE, president of CAW, said: “What a fantastic achievement by Team Wales in their very first world competition. Although as a team they did not make the top three, we are still waiting to hear the final world rankings.
“With Ben securing a top three place, that certainly indicates that we are on the right track and well placed for the future.”
The Craft Butchery Team Wales comprises Peter Rushforth from Innovative Food Ingredients, Lytham St Annes, who is captain, 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 and Liam Lewis from Hawarden Farm Shop.
Team sponsors are Food and Drink Wales, the Welsh Government’s department representing the food and drink industry, Atlantic Service Company from Newport, 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.
Ben Roberts with his World Champion Butcher Apprentice bronze trophy in Sacramento.