A WELSH Government Minister has praised commitment and skills of Craft Butchery Team Wales members following their successful debut at the recent World Butchers’ Challenge in Sacramento, California.

Team member Ben Roberts, 30, from M. E. Evans Butchers, Overton-on-Dee, near Wrexham, finished third in the Champion Butcher Apprentice competition and it was confirmed this week that the team had finished sixth from 13 countries in the ‘Olympics of Meat’.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, said: “A huge congratulation to Ben and the team who should be rightly proud of their achievements representing Wales at the World Butchers’ Challenge.

“Their dedication to the craft is clear and the experience of competing on a global stage will be invaluable for them going forward.”

Formed in 2020 and managed by retired butcher and experienced competition judge Steve Vaughan from Penyffordd, near Wrexham, Craft Butchery Team Wales is a division of the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW).

CAW president Arwyn Watkins, OBE, said: “For the team to finish sixth in the world and for Ben to finish third in the butcher apprentice competition at the first attempt are fantastic achievements for Team Wales.

“The team members have told me how proud they were to walk out on the world stage with the Welsh flag to represent their country in their chosen craft.”

For Wales to debut at the World Butchers’ Challenge was the realisation of a dream for Mr Watkins, managing director of Cambrian Training Company which delivers apprenticeships to butchers in Wales.

“It took huge effort and many years of persuasion to secure a team of craft butchers to represent Wales at the World Butchers Challenge,” he said. “It all started with the Welsh Young Butcher of the Year contest and we always had an aspiration to get butchers from Wales competing on the world stage.

“When we realised we were not going to achieve our ambition through the WorldSkills UK Competition, we decided to look independently at another route, which led us to the World Butchers’ Challenge.

“Team Wales has now set the foundation for a future legacy and hopefully it will help to attract more people into the industry as a recognised skilled craft. The team has put in a huge amount of time and dedication and I am extremely proud of what we have collectively achieved.”

Team co-ordinator Chris Jones, head of the food and drink business unit at Cambrian Training Company, said he and team were “overwhelmed” by sixth place, having finished ahead of much larger countries.

“It’s a reward for all their hard work and dedication. They are all good butchers, know their craft and have competed before. They now have a good foundation to build on and we know where we lost points, which is easily rectified.”

Speaking about Ben’s bronze medal, he added: “He’s worth his weight in gold. He  not only worked so hard for his own competition, which paid off, but also supported the team by attending every practise to learn all the skills just in case he had to step in at the last minute.”

The Welsh butchers made many new friends in the competition. “We have had some great messages from the other teams, saying that Wales will be one to watch if we keep on competing at this level,” added Chris.

“The competition was like one big family of butchers, with all the teams helping each other where they could.”

The Craft Butchery Team Wales comprises Peter Rushforth from Innovative Food Ingredients, Lytham St Annes, as 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 Allen- 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. Tiny Rebel and Jones Brothers Farm Shop.