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Award-winning Welsh butcher launches new business with help of Apprenticeships

An award-winning butcher, who has competed against the world’s best in his craft, is using the skills learnt during apprenticeships to open a new shop in Farndon, near Chester.

Ben Roberts, 32, opens Astley & Stratton Ltd today (Wednesday), replacing the Griffiths Butchers shop which had been based on High Street for 200 years. The previous shop’s retiring manager Jeremy Turner worked there for 46 years.

Ben, who lives in Rhostyllen, near Wrexham, is looking forward to bringing customers an exciting blend of traditional and modern, innovative butchery, including oven ready meals.

He credits a series of apprenticeships completed with Cambrian Training Company, one of Wales’ leading work-based learning providers, with giving him the skills, knowledge, experience and confidence to run his own business

A member of the Craft Butchery Team Wales, Ben won a bronze medal in the Champion Butcher Apprentice competition at the World Butchers’ Challenge in the USA in 2022.

Next Monday, he will be competing to become Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year at the Welsh International Culinary Championships at ICC Wales, Newport. He would love to clinch a place in Wales team to compete in the World Butchers’ Challenge 2025 in France.

“I’ll be using the knowledge I have gained over the years working in shops, doing my apprenticeships and following the latest trends to offer customers an exciting food experience,” said Ben. “They can expect innovative products as well as traditional cuts.

“Having completed the apprenticeships with Cambrian Training and competed at the World Butchers’ Challenge, I feel that I am ready for the next challenge of opening my own shop.”

Apprenticeships have played a key role in his development as a world class butcher. He progressed from a Foundation Apprenticeship in Food Manufacturing to a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) before completing an Apprenticeship in Business Management which paved the way for him to run his own business.

His growing list of honours includes Apprentice of the Year at both the Wales Food and Drink Awards and Cambrian Training Company Awards in 2022 and being appointed a Skills Excellence in Wales Ambassador.

“I’ll be working on my own to start with but I plan to take on an apprentice within months. Apprenticeships have given me the knowledge base, experience and confidence, as well as an understanding of different aspects of running a business and producing quality products.

“My long term goal is to establish an apprenticeship programme in the shop, so that young butchers can experience the same things that I have had the privilege of experiencing in my career to date.

“It feels like I have come a complete circle because I started my career as a butcher’s boy in Holt 18 years ago and now I’m setting up a business 500 yards over the English border on the other side to the River Dee,” added Ben, who previously managed M. E. Evans Butchers, Overton-on-Dee and Wrexham.

Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Cambrian Training Company’s executive chairman, wished Ben success with his business venture.

“Ben is an outstanding example of career progression using the Welsh Government’s apprenticeship programme which has given him the skills and experience to launch his own business,” he said. 

“He is totally dedicated to his craft which is emphasised by his commitment to the Craft Butchery Team Wales and benchmarking himself against butchers from across the UK and around the world.”

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