Top young butcher eyes national award
Young Pembrokeshire butcher Mark Wolsey’s commitment to constantly improving the family shop and his own personal skills has seen him propelled into the final three of a competition to find the best young butcher in the UK.
Haverfordwest-based Prendergast Butchers, run by 20-year-old Mark’s father and mother Chris and Rachael, has already attracted attention for its excellence in other award arenas in the immediate years after they took it on in 2017.
This year they are chasing Welsh Butcher’s Shop of the Year, held at the Farm and Deli Show at the NEC Birmingham on April 26, sponsored by a range of industry leaders including Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
Mark’s solo nomination for Young Butcher of the Year at the same event is clear recognition of the added value he has brought to the business since completing his Agriculture course at Hartpury College in Gloucester in March 2020.
“The family realised that we had to diversify from our farm business alone and bought the butchers shop,” said Mark. “The shop had become very quiet before we took it over and so we set about transforming it.”
Their Pembrokeshire farm started off with around 200 breeding ewes yielding 400-500 lambs and now has grown to 400 yielding 800-1000 lambs a year and they have added pigs in later years. “The farm supplies the shop along with other local suppliers. Our customers love to know where their meat comes from and we’ve found they don’t mind paying a bit more for quality”, said Mark.
Mark has recently obtained his Level Two Butchery qualification and plans to start Level Three soon. He has helped develop the social media presence that his father established to boost the awareness of the shop and has aided the introduction of a mail order service that got a good foothold during Covid winning customers from right across the UK.
“It was really important that we built a bigger customer base and the mail order side has contributed to that,” he said. “We saw a surge in mail orders - 60-70 a day during Covid. We were working in the shop from 6 am to 7 pm and then taking out deliveries until as late as 2 am to make sure they got there.”
Mark said the service was used by customers from as far afield as Nevada and Australia who had local vulnerable relatives that they wanted to ensure had a delivery. “Our boxes are all recyclable, ice packed and insulated with sheep wool.
“Inside the shop we also sell fresh cakes, bread from the local bakery, fruit and veg and other products.”
Mark and his family have further plans to increase and support the business going forward. “We’d like to see the shop grow bigger and I’m planning to do a fact-finding tour of the top UK butchers to make sure that we to bring in the best possible practices that we can to improve and expand,” he said.
HCC Market Development Manager Rhys Llywelyn said, “In recent times we’ve been tailoring the support we offer Welsh butchery businesses through our Butchers’ Club, to include support with marketing and online selling.
“Membership is open to all shops that stock PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef, and it’s great to see so many Welsh businesses nominated for the Butchers’ Shop of the Year Awards in 2022.”
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