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Trip to Meatstock a cut above for Port Moody butcher

Taryn Barker’s first taste of competitive butchering came with seasoning and even a vegemite sandwich.

Taryn Barker’s first taste of competitive butchering came with seasoning and even a vegemite sandwich.

The owner of The Little Butcher in Port Moody’s Newport Village has just returned from Auckland, New Zealand, where she was the only female competitor in Butcher Wars, that was part of that city’s Meatstock, a celebration of all things carnivorous.

Barker, 29, said her trip was supposed to be an adventure, but it turned into an education. And she’s anxious to spread her newfound knowledge and renewed enthusiasm for her craft to cultivate a community of butchering locally.

Because that’s what Barker discovered on the other side of the world, where she was a true outsider.

Not only was Barker one of only two female entrants, she also the only butcher who wasn’t from New Zealand or Australia.

Barker said she was immediately welcomed into the fold, as the host butchers shared their local knowledge and techniques. She said unlike here, where meat is presented simply and unadorned, cuts in Australasian countries are often already seasoned, stuffed with cheese and enveloped in pastry or tied fancily to make them look like pincushions.

Barker found out about Butcher Wars through social media, and she prepared the same way, mining Instagram feeds and YouTube videos to learn as much about cutting a side of lamb or pork middle as she could. Prior to departing, she practised on two lamb carcasses she brought into her shop.

Barker said it wasn’t just about sharpening her skills, she also had to create products her customers wanted to buy and eat.

Of course, practising in the small cutting room at the back of her shop was one thing, breaking down half a lamb, then seasoning and presenting the cuts to please the local judges, all in 30 minutes, on a stage, in front of more than 200 hungry spectators, while explaining what she was doing, proved to be quite another.

Barker said she was pleased she finished somewhere in the middle of the 17 competitors, but she was especially enthralled by the way the event fostered an appreciation for her craft.

“People realize butchering is more of a craft when it’s done creatively,” she said, adding she hopes to organize similar competitions amongst the local butchering community that is often overshadowed by the convenience of buying meat prepackaged in styrofoam trays and plastic wrap at the local big box grocery store.

“It’s given me good energy to keep going,” Barker said, adding she’s planning for a return visit, next to Meatstock in Australia.

As for that vegemite; Barker said the sandwich spread that’s made of leftover brewers’ yeast extract, vegetables and spices was “alright. It tasted like soy sauce on bread.”

03/04: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect number of female butchers entered in the Butcher Wars competition.