Talented Mid Wales butcher Daniel Raftery proved himself to be top of the chops in the final of a national contest at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair on Monday.

Daniel, 34, a grade A slaughterman at Randall Parker Foods, Dolwen, Llanidloes, held off a strong challenge from two rivals to win the Welsh Butcher of the Year title.

Runner-up was Craig Holly from Neil Powell Butchers, Abergavenny, who won the Welsh Pork Butcher of the Year title at the same event last year and third was Dewi Davies from Bethesda Farm Shop, Narberth.

Apart from having the kudos of being named Wales’ best butcher, Daniel received a cheque for £130, while Holly received £70 and Davies received a trophy.

Organised by Cambrian Training Company, the contest is sponsored by Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and Celtica Foods.

Staged in the Carcass Hall at the Llanelwedd showground, the contest was a true test of the butchers’ skills over three tasks. They were given an hour to seam a topside of Welsh Beef, 70 minutes to create kitchen ready products for customers from a mystery box of ingredients and 90 minutes to create a visually exciting barbecue display of chicken, Welsh Beef, Welsh Lamb and pork.

Looking for new and creative ideas, the judges rated the finalists for their cutting technique, added value, display techniques, HACCP and personal hygiene and maximum carcass yield.

Daniel, who lives in Abermule, near Newtown, said it was only his second competition and he was surprised but delighted to win. “Everything went pretty smoothly, but the time went very fast,” he added.

“I had been practicing for the previous week but couldn’t prepare for what was in the mystery box, which threw me a little. I find the competitions hard because the last time I worked as a retail butcher was about 10 years ago. I’m lucky to have the full support of my employer to compete.”

He now plans to compete in next year’s Butchery WorldSkills UK National Competition and would like to open a butcher’s shop in the future. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of talented Welsh butchers Peter Rushforth and Matthew Edwards, who both represented the UK and won the Butchery WorldSkills UK National Competition.

Chris Jones, from Cambrian Training Company, who judged the final with Steve Vaughan, from Vaughan’s Family Butchers, Penyffordd, praised the high standard of work produced by the three butchers.

“It was a very close final which was nip and tuck all the way,” he said. “Daniel was so organised and everything he did was done perfectly. He produced good, clean products that were well displayed.

“What is particularly impressive is that Daniel has retained his retail butchery skills despite being out of that environment for 10 years. Being a grade A slaughterman is a very skilled job which requires accuracy, cleanliness and speed, while retail butchery requires more finesse and a knowledge of how to display meat.”

Pictured: Daniel Raftery, Welsh Butcher of the Year champion.