THE various lockdowns might have been a pain for many, but they have served up one positive – and that is that people are changing their habits to buying more local, with one of the main beneficiaries being High Street butchers.

The business of retailing meat from traditional shop counters really has taken an upward turn and this has added fresh encouragement to the craft's apprentices, some of whom were rewarded for their endeavours at the recent on-line ceremony organised by the Scottish Craft Butchers to find the best youngsters coming into the industry.

Two Scottish apprentice butchers have lifted top awards in an innovative nationwide digital challenge designed to unearth creative young talent within the industry.

Dubbed the 'Butchers battles – the apprentices clash', it pitted entrants from all over Scotland in two categories – a video presentation and a digital step-by-step guide showing the preparation and delivery of new, counter-ready meat products.

A delighted Ariane Bennett (20), from DH Robertson, in Arbroath, and Jordan Shaw (20), from S Collins and Son, in Muirhead, lifted the honours, respectively.

Ariane, who has worked in the family business since leaving school, created a video showing the preparation, presentation and cooking of her 'Paradise Pork Pleat' creation.

Ariane Bennett winner of the video award 2021 with her Paradise Pork Plait Picture by Graeme Hart

Ariane Bennett winner of the video award 2021 with her Paradise Pork Plait Picture by Graeme Hart

Jordan, who is in his fifth year with the Muirhead butchers, showed in photographs and text how to create his Stuffed Lamb Loin winner.

Gordon King, executive manager of Scottish Craft Butchers, explained that the pilot awards had proved hugely popular and allowed young apprentice butchers to translate their ideas into marketable products and hone their virtual presentation skills.

"The past year has been tough on our apprentice butchers," he said. "Many are having to carry out assessments remotely and engage with trainers and assessors on virtual platforms.

"The inability to hold physical competitions prompted us to pilot something online, encouraging apprentices to present in a format they wouldn't normally use and boosting their confidence."

Mr King added that the competition also aimed to push standards ever higher for the young butchers and recognise their innovation, creativity and product quality.

"We've been delighted with the interest shown and every new product presented by the entrants is worthy of a place on their shop counters," he said. "We'll certainly consider running this sort of online competition format in the future."

Video presentation winner, Ariane, said the online competition had been a great way to bring new product ideas into the spotlight. "I'm absolutely thrilled that my video presentation came out top in the whole of Scotland – I can hardly believe it," she said.

"I'm a Young Ambassador for QMS and to bring forward a new award-winning product using locally sourced Specially Selected Pork was really exciting."

Jordan was equally thrilled to secure first for his digital visual presentation. "I love coming up with new product ideas and I love teaching skills to others, so this combined both in one virtual entry," he explained.

"To win this award is absolutely brilliant. It's the first for my trophy cabinet. It's also really heartening to have your product ideas and presentation skills acknowledged as being of a high standard – it's a real thrill."

Gordon Newlands, the brands development manager with QMS, added his praise: “Congratulations to Scotch Butcher Club, our Cutting Edge Ambassador, Ariane Bennett and Jordan Shaw, from S Collins and Son for this fantastic achievement. These awards are an opportunity to champion excellence in the industry and recognise the importance of quality training.

"The Scotch Butcher Club is looking forward to collaborating with Scotch Craft Butchers on a programme in the near future to help develop the industry further.”

The competition was judged by Scottish Craft Butchers' honorary presidents, George Lees and Stuart Dempsey, and a £250 cash prize to accompany an industry trophy was donated to each winner by SCB president, Tom Courts.