Butchers from across the central North Island sharpened their knives and cut their way through a two-hour competition in the regional stages of the 2020 Alto Young Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year competition.
It was a close call, but after a fierce competition Brad Gillespie from New World Rototuna was first in the Alto Young Butcher of the Year category and James Beattie from Pak'nSave Te Awamutu claimed top spot in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year category.
This was the fourth regional competition in a national series to find New Zealand's top butchers who will compete in a Grand Final showdown in November.
The Central North Island contestants put their boning, trimming, slicing and dicing skills to the test as they broke down a size 20 chicken, a whole pork leg, and a beef short loin into a display of value-added products.
Brad has been a butcher for six years and says it was cool to win, but even more exciting was to have three of his apprentices competing alongside him.
"It was amazing to see how well they did in the competition and I feel very proud of them," says Brad.
"We have all had tremendous support from our store owner leading into the competition as he sees this as a way for us to improve the products we create for our customers."
James, 28, is in his final year as an apprentice and says he is very happy with his win.
"It's my second time entering the regionals and I think this year I slowed down and took more time to put the finishing touches on my display," he says.
"My butchery manager Brendon, has been mentoring me in the lead-up to the competition and I found his ideas and flavour profiles really helpful when planning what value-added cuts to create."
Brad and James will now continue on to the Grand Final, on Tuesday November 10 at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland, where they will further showcase their cutting skills, creativity and knowledge of the trade against the best in the country.
Alongside industry and peer recognition, the winning Alto Young Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year receive a coveted trophy and a study tour.
The competition is sponsored by Alto Packaging, ANZCO Foods, Pure South, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Competenz, Dunninghams, Hellers, Tegel and Wilson Hellaby.