Com­pe­ti­tion beefs up at na­tion­als

DAILY GRIND Phill Pirie be­gan his ca­reer in butch­ery work­ing on Satur­days to boost his in­come. Now he is com­pet­ing for a place in New Zealand’s Sharp Blacks. Joe Daw­son caught up with the Mt Eden man to learn more about his trade.

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Af­ter re­al­is­ing he pre­ferred the chal­lenges and joys that come with work­ing in a butcher’s shop, Phill Pirie put down the sparky’s kit and picked up the cleaver.

‘‘I’ve been butcher­ing for 14 years and I was an elec­tri­cian be­fore that,’’ he says.

‘‘I was work­ing in a butch­ers on week­ends mak­ing sausages and de­cided to be­come a butcher.

‘‘I en­joyed it, more so than be­ing an elec­tri­cian. It’s not the most glam­orous job, but it’s good to have job sat­is­fac­tion – ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent and there’s al­ways a chal­lenge.’’

Orig­i­nally from York, UK, Mr Pirie moved to New Zealand about a decade ago.

He has been at Mt Eden Tra­di­tional Butch­ery pretty much ever since – ‘‘I’m part of the chat­tels now’’ – and is the butch­ery man­ager there these days.

He says the job is a mix of tech­ni­cal abil­ity – he holds qual­i­fi­ca­tions in meat science giv­ing him thor­ough knowl­edge of anatomy and phys­i­ol­ogy – and cus­tomer ser­vice so of­fers great va­ri­ety.

Cus­tomers re­quire a mix of prod­ucts.

Some are too busy to put too much ef­fort into their cook­ery while the surge of in­ter­est in food through shows like Mas­ter Chef also sees a more dis­cern­ing punter come through the doors.

‘‘It’s al­ways been based on per­sonal ser­vice,’’ Mr Pirie says. ‘‘We’ve now gone through the next gen­er­a­tion and peo­ple now are get­ting more into cook­ing and en­ter­tain­ing.

‘‘We also do kitchen-ready meals which are done in 15 to 20 min­utes for the con­sumer who doesn’t have time to cook.

‘‘That’s one thing about butcher’s shops, you can find out what the cus­tomer specif­i­cally wants, but in the su­per- mar­ket you only get what’s on the shelf.

‘‘It’s not just your sausages and mince.’’

The ca­reer path also gives the op­por­tu­nity to go up against the best in the busi­ness.

Mr Pirie has taken to the com­pet­i­tive side of the butch­ery with rel­ish.

Ear­lier this year he trav­elled to Wanaka to watch New Zealand’s best butch­ery team, the Sharp Blacks, come up against the best of the UK and Aus­tralia in a tri-na­tions com­pe­ti­tion.

He chat­ted with or­gan­is­ers and made his way on to a North Is­land rep­re­sen­ta­tive team in a ‘‘bat­tle of the butch­ers’’ against their south­ern coun­ter­parts.

From there he has put him­self into con­tention to join the Sharp Blacks squad head­ing to the UK next year.

‘‘The North Is­land team won, so four mem­bers of that team and two from the South Is­land have made up a team to go against the Sharp Blacks.

‘‘The best of the two will make up the new Sharp Blacks. It does sound bru­tal but it means the cur­rent team need to work hard to keep their po­si­tions.’’

Mr Pirie says he is well sup­ported by his em­ployer He­len Clot­wor­thy of Po­keno Ba­con, who bought the Mt Eden Tra­di­tional Butch­ery late last year.


Meat man: Butcher Phill Pirie. The tro­phy is from the North Is­land butch­ery team’s re­cent win against their South Is­land coun­ter­parts. He is gun­ning for a spot on the na­tional team, the Sharp Blacks.

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