Know Your Butcher, Know Your Meat

“The art of butchering, albeit an ancient one, is a dying one.”

This is according to Caroline McCann, owner of Braeside Meat Market in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, and the lady behind the South African version of Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress. A lawyer-turned-butcher, Caroline has made meat – particularly the grass-fed and ethically raised kind - her business since 2002 when she, burnt out and overworked, decided to “take a break” from running her own labour consultancy…and bought a butchery from her aunt instead.

Meat lovers can catch Caroline at the upcoming Fire & Feast Butcher’s Festival (FFBF), presented by Crown National, which will be taking place from Friday, 26 May to Sunday, 28 May 2017 at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg.

Not only is Caroline a tremendous drawcard to the show because of her vast knowledge and passion for the meat industry, along with her worldwide reputation as one of the wave makers as far as quality and sustainability is concerned, but she will also be running a one-of-its-kind competition called the “National Butchers Challenge” during FFBF. The aim of this challenge, which is based on an international butchers competition conceptualised in Australia, is to highlight butchering as an exciting career choice, an art, and a trade in the true sense of the word.

“For most aspiring young adults planning their tertiary studies or entering the job market for the first time, butchering might not seem the obvious, glamorous or ‘sexy’ choice. The majority of today’s young professionals are after laptops, briefcases and desk jobs,” says Caroline. “Coupled with the fact that there are currently only two institutions in South Africa who offer formalised training for butchers – we’re sitting with a real problem in our country.”

But why the panic? It’s quite simple, really. In fact, it all boils down to choice. Our mothers, and our mother’s mothers, knew their butchers by name. They knew that these individuals would be able to not only supply them with the best cuts of meat, but that their purchase would also be best suited to their recipe requirements. Moreover, butchers would also be able to tell their clients exactly where their meat came from. Hence the reason why butchers do not only play a significant role in our overall culinary experiences, but also in the quality of what we put into our bodies.

Without butchers, our local farmers are forced to supply to larger conglomerates, which completely cuts out that relationship and trust of yesteryear. "And instead of knowing where their meat comes from, consumers are forced to buy meat in polystyrene packets without knowing how long it has been lying on a fridge shelf, how far it has travelled to get there, let alone what the animal was fed,” adds Caroline.

“However, I am a firm believer that the industry is big enough for everybody. At the end of the day, all I want to do is offer consumers the best possible choices when it comes to grass-fed beef and ethically raised meat, while also educating them about the importance of supporting their local butcher. But I cannot do that if I do not educate young people entering into the job market about the art of butchering first."

“I want to encourage up and coming butchers – or even those who consider their deboning or meat cutting skills to be top notch – to enter the FBFF ‘National Butchers Challenge',” concludes Caroline.

“Come and find out for yourself why Karoo Lamb is considered so superior, why Nguni meat can hold its own against international counterparts, and why I left an office job for an industry which is as old as time, but which has also withstood the test of time.”

If you’re a meat lover and you would like to learn more about purchasing, preparing and presenting the very best cuts of meat South Africa has to offer, then you’re in the right place. The Fire & Feast Butcher’s Festival, presented by Crown National, kicks off at the Ticketpro Dome on Friday, May 26th and will sizzle until Sunday, 28th May. This festival will give those with a passion for all things meaty access to not only the who’s who of the meat industry, but also live cooking and pairing demonstrations that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

 Tickets for the Fire & Feast Butcher's Festival, presented by Crown National, are available from Ticketpro and at the door:

  • Adults: R100
  • Pensioners and students: R80
  • Age 0-12: Free

The festival times for all three days, are from 10h00 to 20h00.

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