Apprentice butcher Josh is a cut above
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
CUSTOMERS at a meat stall making its debut at Barnard Castle Farmers’ Market this month were served by one of the best in the business.
Josh Huitson was back at work for Stoneygate Farm and Café after receiving the award for best retail butchery apprentice from the Princess Royal at the Institute of Meat and Worshipful Company of Butchers’ annual prize-giving in London.
Mr Huitson, 20, joined the Ravensworth-based farm enterprise two years ago. He has completed his Optimum Skills level 2 butcher’s apprenticeship and is now working towards his level 3 qualification.
“I was nominated for the award, but I don’t know by who,” he said.
He said he decided to become an apprentice after completing his A levels.
“I decided I wanted to do an apprenticeship rather than go to university. I had worked in game and game keeping and this led to an interest in processing meat.”
He added: “Now I want to pass my level 3 and then I would like to stay at Stoneygate.”
The 100-acre farm, shop and café is run by Malcolm Tennant and his wife Bernadette.
“We are just a family holding really like the old traditional farms used to be,” said Mr Tennant.
“We raise our own pigs, sheep and cattle. They are old native breeds.”
The Tennants keep about 14 breeding sows – Tamworths and Gloucester Old Spots – and have between 40 and 60 pigs on the ground.
The 22 suckler cows are beef shorthorns – the area’s indigenous breed – with calves that go through the farm shop.
The 42 sheep on the farm are a mix of pure Herdwicks and Herdwick cross-breeds.
“They produce lovely lamb but are very slow growing,” said Mr Tennant.
“There is nothing intensive on the farm – everything grows at its own pace. This is where we are trying to differentiate from other farms. Our animals are at least twice the age of those commercially reared when the go to slaughter.”
It was the success of the shop and café that prompted the farm to take a stall at Barney farmers’ market.
“During lockdown, we extended the farm shop to have a café, which has gone down really well,” he said.
“The shop has been open for five years but the café was launched just after the final lockdown.”
Of Mr Huitson’s success, Mr Tennant said: “Josh is both talented and determined to succeed in everything he does. He works incredibly hard and excelled in his apprenticeship and end-point assessment. He thoroughly deserves this award.” Mr Tennant has now taken on a second apprentice – Matthew Fox, the son of local dairy farmers.