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A few years back Elyse Chatterton of Edmonton’s Popowich Meat Company reached out to her friend Corey Meyer about the World Butchers’ Challenge.
Started in 2011 as the Trans-Tasman Test Match, a yearly rivalry between New Zealand and Australia, it quickly became a biannual butchery competition with the addition of other contesting countries as the years went on. By 2018 it had grown to include Ireland (who won in 2018), France, Great Britain, Italy, the US and more. When 2019 came around it was ready to expand again.
“I’d always known about the challenge, but Canada had never had a team involved in it,” says Meyer, who plies his trade at Acme Meat Market in Ritchie. “Elyse said that we were going to have a team for 2020, you should try out for it. I asked if she was and she said yes, but she didn’t want to do it alone.”
According to Meyer the two competed for a spot with other prospective teammates via a series of videos they were asked to make and then upload on social media, with appropriate hashtags for the judges to find. Every month they were given a new butcher assignment to film, from pork to lamb shoulder, each meat broken down and then fancied up for display. They then waited for close to half a year.
Lo, and behold they were both accepted, Meyer found out as he was picking up a bite to eat at a fast food restaurant. His enthusiastic “woo hoo!” upon opening the email on his phone he was met with quizzical stars from strangers before he sheepishly explained. This garnered him a round of applause from the other bemused customers.
This all took place back in 2019, when the challenge was meant to go ahead for 2020. The worldwide pandemic waylaid those plans, however, and the challenge was set aside for a period. Still, the assembled team of seven butchers, which also included representatives from BC and Ontario, stayed together.
They’re now being given an opportunity to showcase their skills in Sacramento this September as the challenge is back on for 2022. It’s a contest that isn’t meant for the squeamish, and only the most highly skilled are invited to compete. As a team they’re given three hours and 15 minutes to break down and display a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb, and five chickens.
While she’s adept at other facets of the business, Chatterton has been given the position of finisher.
“We’re the last hands to touch everything on our display,” says the English-born butcher, who began helping in the family butcher shop at the tender age of 14. “We’re the ones who make it look pretty and do all of the garnishing, all of the glazing and marinating. We’re the ones who make you want to eat it.”
Chatterton will be sharing the position with Taryn Barker of Port Moody, BC Other positions include breakers, who do the trimming and cutting of the meat, along with the trimmers. Meyer will work that job along with Team Canada’s captain, Peter Baarda.
“We fancy it up and do the primal and subprimal cuts, after which we pass it down the line to Elyse and Taryn. They’re the ones who really make the display pop.”
The competition takes place Sept. 2-3, and the team has been preparing by meeting up every other month in Olds, Port Dover, Ont., and BC Chatterton already has a good feeling about the group, noting they meshed together quite easily from the first meeting. If there’s one thing she’s sure of, it’s that they’ll work well together when the buzzer goes off.
“I think half of the problem when you’re in a team is you need to have that camaraderie, and we’ve nailed that.”