Women Butchers Why shouldn't women become butchers?

Portraits of the three women in the podcast: Martina Bartolozzi, Sophie Minchilli and Olivia Potts.

Cover artworkCheap supermarket meat has been making life difficult for independent butchers for quite some time now. England has lost 60 per cent of its butcher shops in the past few decades, Australia 80 per cent. I couldn’t find figures for the United States. Against that background, there has been an uptick of interest from young people wanting to learn the skills needed to deconstruct an animal carcass. What surprised me – and of course it shouldn’t have – is that women are learning butchery. I chatted with three of them.


  1. Olivia Potts’ article, which triggered my interest, is The Women at the Cutting Edge of Butchery. She has a website too.
  2. Instagram is the best place to find Martina Bartolozzi and while Sophie Minchilli is also on Instagram, she has a website. Both offer great food tours.
  3. Here is the transcript.

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  1. In reply to Women Butchers Why shouldn’t women become butchers?.

    And through experience and practice that you start seeingall of the different parts, you start seeing all of the different muscle groups, and you learn how to separate them. And this is one of the reasons why it’s not a job of strength necessarily, because when you have a sharp knife that works just right and you know where to place it, the meat just comes apart on its own, all of the different muscles. I mean, I don’t know how graphic I can get — as graphic as you like —Okay, so you have say two pieces of muscle and inside, in between is the seam, you can cut on the top of the seam, and if you cut just right in two pieces of muscles, you can just pull it apart with your hands.

    Jeremy (@jeremycherfas) this reminds me of Chuang-tzu’s Cook Ting:

    I rely on Heaven’s structuring, cleave along the main seams, let myself be guided by the main cavities, go by what is inherently so. A ligament or tendon I never touch, not to mention solid bone. A good cook changes his chopper once a year, because he hacks. A common cook changes it once a month, because he smashes. Now I have had this chopper for nineteen years, and have taken apart several thousand oxen, but the edge is as though is were fresh from the thickness; if you insert what has no thickness where there is an interval, then, what more could you ask, of course there is ample room to move the edge about. That’s why after nineteen years the edge of my chopper is as thought it were fresh from the grindstone.
    The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book ‘Chuang-tzu’ by Chuang-tzu, A. C. Graham

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    1. Fascinating, and makes perfect sense. I’m wondering, though, whether Ting ever sharpened his chopper in those nineteen years. Must have, surely. But the point remains. Sharp knives, well handled, are a thing of beauty and joy.

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