The need for new blood

It's good to see that butchers in Scotland are continuing to invest in training to develop new talent through the ranks. Hopefully, that model is being replicated throughout the UK.

At the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders' recent AGM, one of the overriding themes was the need for the butchery trade to broaden its appeal to younger entrants. We've seen the number of shops tumble over the past 20 years. But while that decline has been somewhat arrested by good practice, unless we start seeing more youth moving into the industry, we're likely to see a further decline, as butchers' shops close due to retirement.

We've seen some positive signs in recent years, with training pushed and promoted by the likes of the Scots, the Meat Training Council and providers, such as MEAT Ipswich. Competitions, such as the Scottish and Welsh Young Butchers of the Year, the BBC Chop Idol, and MTJ's own Young Butcher of the Year, are all good ways to encourage and retain talent. But we need to get more people through the doors and then hold on to them.

Does butchery need a revamp? It certainly needs to move away from the image of hard, cold, dirty work, and reposition itself as a vibrant career option, with multiple paths and opportunities for those willing to learn. Being a butcher combines elements ranging from craft skills and business and people management, to retailing and entrepreneurship. We need to get those messages across to schools, colleges and parents and claw back some of the trade's standing as a great choice of career.