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Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative crowns winner of Best Beef Butcher Contest

Published on 24 May 2022

Butchers from across the Northeast region traveled to compete in Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative’s (NEBPI) Best Beef Butcher Contest on Thursday, May 12. The contest was hosted in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Meat Processors Annual Conference and was held at the Penn State Meat Laboratory in State College, Pennsylvania.

Taking home the honorable mention third place award was Michael Schnalzer of Slate Belt Butchery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Joseph Malafy of Malafy’s Meat Processing in Red Hook, New York, took home the honors of runner-up Best Beef Butcher, and the Grand Prize Overall Winner of the contest went to Josh Williams of Farmstead Butcher in Frederick, Maryland.

“It’s nice to have [a] contest dedicated to highlighting skills we use every day and allow us to put our knowledge to the test,” said Josh Williams, winner of the 2022 contest. “Most butcher competitions are too extravagant and don’t allow us to paint an accurate [image] of what we do.”

These butchers showcased their butchery skills in a head-to-head competition where they had 30 minutes to turn a beef chuck roll subprimal into merchandising cuts, as well as give a two-minute consumer sales pitch and correctly identify 15 fresh beef cuts.

This event was designed to celebrate the skills, knowledge and value independent butchers and meat processors bring to the overall beef supply chain. Without the passion and dedication to the craft of butchery and meat-cutting, beef consumers wouldn’t have as many choices and options available to them regarding the availability of beef.

The judges for the competition were Rick Fetrow, senior field sales consultant at Tyson Fresh Meats; Billie Jo Keil, Penn State Extension butchery apprenticeship student; and Ben Williamson, animal science instructor at Penn State University and Pennsylvania Beef Council (PBC) board member.

The largest share of the contestants’ scores were derived from the 30-minute cutting portion, where they were asked to break down a beef chuck roll and fabricate them into the following beef value cuts: the Delmonico steaks, Denver steaks, Sierra steaks, boneless country-style ribs and chuck eye roast. They were judged on the following criteria:

  • Accuracy: How accurately did they fabricate the desired beef value cuts?
  • Technique: knife skills/efficiency of movement, safety technique, portioning, denuding and trimming
  • Visual appeal: How well did they visually merchandise, label and display their cuts for the consumer?
  • Yield: How much yield did they achieve from fabricating out these beef value cuts as compared to the subprimal starting weight?
  • Consumer sales pitch: How well did the contestant deliver a concise, factual, appealing and persuasive sales pitch for their merchandising beef value cuts? They were asked by the judges to “sell” to a hypothetical customer within a two-minute time frame.

In total, the contestants had an opportunity to earn 100 points by the end of the competitions.

“This event allowed for key industry professionals to highlight their skillset that they utilize every day as well as the passion they have for the meat industry,” explained Nichole Hockenberry, executive director of the PBC. “It’s an honor to get to watch them showcase their craft they’ve perfected over the years.”  end mark

From a Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative news release