The result was on a knife-edge but, in the end, Australia and New Zealand had to settle for silver and bronze – with Germany’s ‘butcher wolfpack’ wrapping up the gold.
Still, it wasn’t a bad showing for either the Makani Australian butcher team or the Hellers Sharp Blacks, after facing up to a gruelling challenge against 12 other nations' contenders at the world butcher’s challenge in Sacramento, California, this past weekend.
This year's event welcomed newcomers from Canada, Wales, Iceland and Portugal, making it the largest field in its 11-year history.
And, after a four-year pandemic hiatus – which saw private butcheries in NZ shut down as ‘non-essential’ businesses – each six-person team had just over three hours to turn a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens into a themed display of value-added cuts.
Its main US sponsors were Gascon Cattle of Bench Creek Ranch and food safety group Promega Food.
Teams are allowed to bring their own seasonings, spices, marinades and garnish to finish products that would sell in a retail setting.
Judges score each team based on technique and skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation.
While it must have been galling for head judge and Hellers founder, Todd Heller, he admitted that Germany deserved to win.
“They showed immaculate teamwork, finishing skills and showcased innovation throughout their products. Best of all, we saw them come together and enjoy this competition.”
Team France’s Gauthier Detres, meanwhile, took out the young butcher category, and Matt Tyquin of the Australian team was named as the world champ butcher apprentice.
Germany also won both the best beef sausage (neck and neck with the US) and gourmet sausage awards, while Ireland grabbed the world’s best pork sausage award.
The US event is the eighth in a challenge that was started as a trans-Tasman rivalry in 2011. Australia took home the inaugural honours that year and again at home in 2012.
NZ’s run of three wins from 2013 to 2015 was only snaffled by the French team on the Gold Coast in 2016.
The title holders were the Irish team, who held the home advantage when it was held in Belfast in 2018, with NZ settling for silver that year.
Team members for the Sharp Blacks were captain Riki Kerekere of Hilton Foods, James Smith of Franklin Country Meats, Luka Young, Pak’nSave Kaitaia, Reuben Sharples, of Aussie Butcher New Lynn, Corey White of A Lady Butcher, Cherise Redden of Pak’nSave Glen Innes and Dan Klink, of Mangawhai Meat Shop.
The team manager was sponsor provided, Brydon Heller.