Champion Welsh Young Butcher Peter Rushforth successfully defended his title after a closely fought final where the high standard of butchery was praised by the judges.
Rushforth, 20, from Swans Farm Shop, Treuddyn, Mold, went into the final at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells on Monday fresh from winning a bronze medal at the Butchery WorldSkills UK National Competition final at the Skills Show.
Having represented Great Britain in a European butchery contest recently, Rushforth was determined to end the year on a high.
“Coming into the final as the defending champion, I had everything to lose and the pressure was on,” he said. “I was pleased with my display but I think the standard has gone up dramatically this year.
“I went for a modern design to make the trays creative to attract a younger audience because we need more young people in the industry.
“Looking back at 2015, it has been a very successful year and it’s a great feeling going into Christmas with this accolade.”
Runner up was former three times champion Tomos Hopkin, 22, from Gwyrhyd Mountain Meat, Rhiwfawr, Swansea. Just two points separated the top two while third and fourth respectively were Dewi Davies and Jed Jones both aged 18 who work for Celtica Foods Ltd, Cross Hands.
The contest is sponsored jointly by Hybu Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), Randall Parker Foods, Llanidloes and WMO, Welshpool. Rushforth received a trophy and a cheque for £130, while Hopkin receive a trophy and £70.
The young butchers were challenged to produce a display of meat in two hours from a whole top rump of Welsh Beef, a leg of PGI Welsh Lamb, half a shoulder of Welsh Pork and a whole Cefn Llan Welsh chicken.
The judges, Chris Jones from Cambrian Training Company and Steve Morgans from Morgans Butchers, Brecon, were looking for cuts to maximise saleability and product value as well as new, creative ideas, cutting technique, added value, display techniques, HACCP and personal hygiene and maximum yield from the carcasses.
Mr Morgans said: “The standard was very, very high with little to choose between Peter and Tomos. I think the standard is improving every year and butchery skills are now being recognised because butchers have to make meat displays appealing to the eye.
“It was also great to see Dewi and Jed competing for the first time. They are starting out on the competition ladder and the final was a wonderful learning curve for them.”
Rushforth, Davies and Jones are all following apprenticeships delivered by Cambrian Training Company with funding from the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund.
“I am not too disappointed because I was up against a very good butcher who has just competed in the Butchery WorldSkills UK final,” said Hopkin. “Peter has improved a hell of a lot since the last time I competed against him three years ago.”
Both Davies and Jones were competing for the first time. “It was a lot more difficult than I had first thought,” confessed Davies, who lives in Whitland. “I really enjoyed the final and now aim to do some more competitions.”
Jones, from Llwynhendy, near Llanelli, said: “I have learnt such a lot today and would love to do it again.”
Rushforth and Hopkin were also joint runners up in the Welsh Pork Butcher final in the morning, with the judges giving champion Clinton Roberts, from Ponty Butchers, Pontardawe, a one-and-a-half point advantage.