Training program

Training program aims to alleviate farm-to-fork bottlenecks

Butcher Trey Williams got his first taste of meat processing in high school. “Everyone in the store was always talking about the guys and women in the meat department making the most money,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I should try this. That’s really what attracted me in the first place, the attraction of a bigger salary.

Seven years ago, Williams was hired as a meat processor at Ayrshire Farms in Fauquier County, a certified cruelty-free organic farm that raises and processes beef, pork and poultry. The job was physically demanding but satisfying, and he enjoyed being part of a more eco-friendly and respectful food system.

Trey williams

Trey Williams is a Compliance Officer and former meat processor at Ayrshire Farms in Upperville.

He also liked the job. “And it gave me the motivation and the determination to keep coming back, even though my hands and feet were sore, my back was sore, I was exhausted, even though all of these things were happening. . . I knew I liked it and was good at it.

Now he’s teaching others what he knows through a 12-week program designed by the Piedmont Environmental Council and Chicago’s Range Academy. Classes will be held twice a week, with a hands-on meat-cutting lab each Saturday.

Click here for the RAPP Center meat cutting program

While the course moves away from teaching animal slaughter, Williams said the lessons learned will be both educational and physical. And he’s looking for some good students. “The people I am looking for are those who are ready to work, those who do not hesitate to use their body in a physical way to do their work… [and] people who will not be afraid of this kind of work and who are learning skills that have been around for thousands of years, but which are disappearing. People interested in doing something that not everyone can do and willing to work to do it.

In addition to meat cutting and grading techniques, students will also learn animal physiology, cooking skills, hand saw and knife safety, and customer service.

“We have to wear a lot of hats,” Williams said. “It’s something a butcher will learn, yes, they have to know how to cut meat, but they also have to know how to cook it, and how to communicate with a customer and be good at customer service. thing you have to have a lot of different things that you are good at or at least are willing to do in order to be successful at your job.You are going to learn a lot of things that don’t really seem to go with the cut of meat, but they do; embrace that.

Travis Hamilton, 42, a father of two from Front Royal, signed up. He has worked in the meat business for a dozen years as a packer and delivery driver and enjoys job security.

“It’s always comfortable knowing that you will have the skills to go out and find a job, you know, if something happened with the current job you had, you weren’t always scrambling. There are opportunities everywhere for processors and meat cutters, meat plant managers, things like that. You might as well make a living, ”Hamilton said. “So that’s what keeps me going and makes me want to deepen my skills, take the course and learn as much as possible about the company. “

He also feels good about serving sustainable farms in Virginia. “One of my main things is that I like knowing where the things I eat come from, how they’ve been maintained and raised, and all that. It’s something that interests me; farm-to-table type of thing.

And there is something else that attracts him to this line of work.

“I love to eat,” he joked. “So yeah, and my favorite thing to eat is steak and beef, so learning what’s the difference between choice or premium beef is also very interesting. And you can see a difference in taste.

Finally, the profession is lucrative. With a high school diploma or GED, meat cutters in Virginia can earn up to $ 50,000 a year to start. The program, which costs students $ 900, begins in early November in Rappahannock County.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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