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To teach the art of butchery and increase its ranks of skilled meat cutters, Whole Foods Market is launching an 18-month, intensive in-store Meat Apprenticeship Program.
"For decades, neighborhood butchers were linchpins in American communities – shoppers’ trusted guides to selecting the best meat for their families and their budgets,” said Theo Weening, global meat coordinator for the Austin, Texas-based natural foods retailer. “With today’s meat processing facilities, butchers are being taken out of the equation and people are more disconnected than ever with food. Our shoppers want to know where their meat comes from, how the animal was raised and how to prepare it. No one is better equipped to meet those needs than a classically trained butcher.”
The program is both hands-on and academic. Apprentices will learn how to prepare all cuts of meat from various species and receive training on merchandising and meat preparation, as well as cooking techniques that they can share with customers.
Apprentices’ skills will be honed and tested via cutting exams, meat sanitation audits and customer service exercises. By the end of the program, apprentices will be able to break down meat and fulfill customers’ requests.
On Sept. 21, 11 butchers will compete in the “Best Butcher Competition and Fishmonger Face-Off,” which celebrates Whole Foods' top butchers and spotlights the tradition and craft of butchery.