There aren’t many female butchers. In fact, the industry as a whole is a ‘dying trade’.
But one of the country’s leading meat carvers is trying to recruit more to join the industry to keep it alive – especially women.
Jess Wragg, 25, is one of the few female butchers in Britain, which she has been she was just 16.
During the week, she works full-time as a marketing manager in London – but she uses every spare hour she has to serve up meat to the public at weekends.
Now she has revealed why butchery is a great career choice for any woman, and how it can fit around an office job – as well as sharing her top butchery tips.
Marketing manager during the week, a butcher at the weekends: Jess Wragg loves butchery so much that she can’t give up her passion, despite working full-time
Jess started working at a butcher’s when she applied for a Saturday job at her local farm shop in Chatsworth, Derbyshire, as a teenager.
‘When I started at 16, it never even crossed my mind that this wasn’t the normal thing for a teenage girl,’ Jess, who now lives in London, said.
‘For most, you expect to see a man behind a counter or even in some of the more senior roles in the meat industry.’
She added: ‘I quickly fell in love with the trade.
‘To me, butchery is such an art form, and it’s sadly a dying trade that deserves recognition. I admire the way that men and women who are confronted with the body of an animal, break it down skilfully and knowledgeably into what a customer sees in the counter.
Jess Wragg fell into butchery at the tender age of 16, and she still carves meat behind the counter at weekends aged 25
During the day, Jess is a marketing manager for a butcher in London
‘There’s so much to learn, even after nine years I don’t feel like I know everything.’
Jess says that even though she loves the trade, she didn’t want to become a full-time butcher after being behind a counter for so much of her young career already.
But she keeps a toe in the water even during the week as she’s a marketing manager for The Ginger Pig, an upmarket butcher in London.
However, she still butchers whenever she can to stop her skills from ‘going rusty’ – and is one of the few women in the male-dominated industry.
Jess wants to show young women that they can break through the glass industry and join the ‘dying’ industry to keep the trade alive
‘It can often be perceived as a male-dominated industry full of experts, which I think can be a daunting prospect,’ she explains.
‘But there’s really no need to feel this way, it’s a very inclusive industry and a great career choice, I’ve started with little experience and have worked with some really talented butchers both male and female to learn what is a very skilled trade.
‘I hope by sharing my experience as a butcher will inspire more women to consider it as a career choice. I’d also love more young people to join the trade.’
She adds that some of the female butchers she knows are ‘some of the very best’.
Jess has now shared her butchery tips with FEMAIL so that you can try carving up your own joints at home.
Jess’s top butchery tips
- Always use a sharp knife – blunt ones not only do nothing, but they’re dangerous and they’re more likely to slip whilst cutting. Try and invest in semi-decent steel to sharpen your knives at home, but if not the next best is to use the back of another knife as they’re made from the same material.
- Cut your steaks thicker rather than thinner. For two people, share a larger one as it’ll be charred and crisp on the outside and juicy and soft in the middle.
- Eat better quality meat less often rather than industrially farmed meat every day. It’s better for you, for the environment, and for the butchery industry. Save up for a larger piece of meat to eat once a week and use the leftovers.
- Dry-aged meat processed in a Dry-Aging Chamber will always taste better than wet-aged, so source that if you can.
- If you’re worried about experimenting with cheaper cuts and not reaping the rewards, start off with onglet and bavette steaks. They’re not as tender but the flavour will more than make up for it.
- Marinade your meat for even more flavour. I like to create a really simple marinade with olive oil, fresh herbs, and a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce to really brighten the flavour. I use parsley and garlic for beef, fennel for pork and rosemary, and mint for lamb.
- Offal is cheap and tasty and a great way to celebrate every part of the animal. Griddled kidneys are wonderful with a salsa verde, or ask your butcher to slice an ox heart thinly and serve with a salad.
- Always ask questions of your butcher. It can be intimidating, but if your butcher can’t answer your questions about provenance, feeding, and farming, then you know to go elsewhere. A good butcher who cares about their meat will always be able to answer you fully.
- If you can, ask your butcher for five or so minutes of their time to teach you how to tie a butcher’s knot. It will be one of the most useful tricks you’ll ever learn.
- Great meat needs to be rested after cooking. At least 10 minutes for a steak, and 15 for larger joints. This allows the muscles to relax after cooking and the end result will be far tastier.
Jessica Wragg has created butchery tips and hacks in collaboration with Tabasco Sauce to help make your steak recipes even better. Visit www.facebook.com/TABASCO for more information.