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Butcher’s choice: French exchange student swaps skills in Glossop

A student from France has spent the week studying butchery at Mettrick's Butchers, learning and exchanging knowledge about butchering.

Student exchange programmes have been commonplace in the UK for a long time. The practice initially started back in 1919 to promote understanding of foreign nations after World War One, but it has since blossomed into offering people across the world the chance to study everything from Asian studies to zoology – and even, as it turns out, butchery.

Laurie is a French student butcher who has been on a week-long exchange to study the art of butchery at Glossop's own Mettrick's Butchers.

Laurie told us how she got her start in butchery. “I was studying at college and working in a supermarket," she said, "and at the end of my studies one of the butchers [at the supermarket] asked me if I wanted to try it, as I didn’t want to do the rest of my studies. I tried it for one year and really enjoyed it, and in August it will be four years that I have been doing it.”

Laurie started her butchering journey back in Lyon, at a specialised college. She is one of just five butchers that have come to the UK to do an exchange study. Laurie said of the other students that have come to the UK: “We have a college for butchering in France – we have one in Grenoble and one in Lyon – so right now I am doing the end of my study near Lyon. Some of the other students are near Newcastle and Birmingham.”

The exchange programme is a two-way street, so while the French butchers are spending a week learning British butchery techniques, some butchers in the UK who are hosting the students will be following them back to their home country.

The butcher from Mettrick's that will be going back to Grenoble with Laurie is Connor Stevenson. Connor told us: “I started here five years ago. I went to college for six weeks but did not enjoy it, so I worked here part-time while doing an apprenticeship. I'm going over to Grenoble next week, so it will be interesting to see how they do it.”

There are notable differences between the butchery techniques of the two countries, but many of them might not be obvious to the untrained eye. The French way of butchering lamb leg, for example, sees the butcher removing the bone and tying it to the back of the cut for later use in broth or soups, which is generally not done in the UK. Laurie explained more: “We save a lot more meat in France than in England, and we do not really do mince. Our cuts are larger, like cutlets. But there is no right or wrong way to do butchery; it all depends on the country and what works well for the customers!”

The week at Mettrick's has provided Laurie with a broader knowledge, and Connor is looking forward to travelling to France to expand his own appreciation of the craft.

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