Women in Butchery

To mark International Women's Day on 8th March, we spoke to Dovecote Park's female butchers about their experiences working in one of the country's most male-dominated professions.

Butchery is one of the UK’s oldest, proudest – and most male-dominated professions, with one recent estimate claiming that less than 1% of  working butchers are female.  Recent years, however, have seen a slight change in the skewed gender balance, with media outlets highlighting more and more women being called to the butchers block. Perhaps the most high profile case is Charlotte Harbottle, who has drawn a Twitter and blog following as thegirlbutcher, and who made headlines in 2013 when she became one of the first women in the country to open her own butchers shop.

Dovecote Park began with just 11 butchers in 1997 and has since expanded to over 80 staff on knife, out of a total of over 150 people in the boning hall. However, until very recently, the company had never employed a female butcher.

No one ever applied’ says Carl Hullah, Assistant Boning Hall Manager.  ‘Women just didn’t seem to want to do it, but now things are changing and we hope to see more and more girls picking up the knife!!’  

In 2014, Carl began to train the boning halls first three ‘knifewomen’, two of whom continue to work for us now.

Helen Murray moved into the department from retail last year, and has worked predominantly on VL, trimming off-cuts to be used for mince and burgers.

I’ve done butchery for about six months now’ she says, ‘I used to work in the retail department, and I wanted to further my career, so I asked to come in here. Now I’m learning all the different things so I can progress in here’.
 People are surprised – they say, ‘Wow, you’re a butcher? Not many girls do that!!’ Men can’t be the only ones who do butchery - women can do whatever men can do. My favourite bit about it is just learning and getting into it – trimming fat off, how you can hang the beef, and all the different cuts.’ 

Katie Allport
began to train as a butcher after previously working in the boning hall as a processing operative. She has worked on the knife for 7 months, mainly on the flank line, cutting and trimming product for third party specifications, and has helped to train new butchers in the department.

‘I’d never really seen a woman  do it - I wanted to do it because you can move further and further up the ladder, it’s a profession. I want to keep moving up – I want to be top butcher. I don’t know why more women don’t do it – I guess some are put off by it, by the knives, but I don’t mind!’

Over in production, Jodie Chitoriski is the teams only female retail butcher, having moved onto the knife after an initial stint working in the burger room.

I went into butchery from there because I wanted to try something new,' she says, 'and I love it, I wouldn’t change it! You do get a shocked reaction from people – they always want to know, ‘Is it bloody?’, ‘Are  you the only woman who works there?’ I think I can do it just as well as any men can do.’
I’d like to progress myself, and become just as good as the team leaders– I can definitely see myself in butchery for a long time.’