CALGARY — An instructor at Olds College is ready to carve his way into history as he prepares for the 2020 World Butcher Challenge.
This is the first time Canada has fielded a team in the event often dubbed ‘the Olympics of butchering,’ which takes place in Sacramento, Calif.
Aaron McLaughlin is the only team member from southern Alberta.
“It’s definitely an honour to be representing Canada in an world competition like this,” he said.
“It’s always something I’ve wanted to do throughout my career and the fact that now I’m able to do that, and Canada is finally putting in a team, it is quite an honour.”
McLaughlin was selected after submitting videos of his work to an online competition run by the Ontario independent Meat Processors.
The rest of the eight-member team is comprised of butchers from British Columbia, Ontario, and a pair from Edmonton.
McLaughlin says many outside the industry don’t think of butchery as a team event.
“But it definitely is,” he said.
“Even if it just comes to cutting a side of beef for a retail store, you are communicating the whole time, talking about the cuts you are getting and communicating with the wrapper about how it’s getting into the retail counter, so it’s definitely team job.”
The World Butcher Challenge culminates in a three-and-a-quarter-hours long competition where entrants are given a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens, which they have to transform into a display of saleable products.
Competitors can bring their own garnishes, spices and marinades to finish the displays.
Teams are scored on technique, skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation.
“The biggest thing is speed and efficiency,” said McLaughlin.
“We are all in it for the same reasons, so as a team we are going to get the job done.”
Judges also select some cuts of meat, along with sausages, to be cooked according to instructions from the butchers. Those cuts are tested for taste.
The World Butcher Challenge started in 2011 as a competition between butchers in Australia and New Zealand. It has since grown to host teams from around the world.
This year there are 16 teams in the competition.
“They are up against 15 other teams from around the world to determine who will be the World’s Best Butchers,” Team Canada said on a crowdfunding page aimed at raising $45,000 to help them make it to Sacramento.
The team’s first practice session in being held in Niagara Falls at the end of October.
The World Butcher’s Challenge events takes place in Sacramento throughout the first week of September 2020, with the final competition on Sept. 5, 2020.