Sainsbury’s Master Butcher Julien Pursglove: National Butchers Week

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As Sainsbury’s Master Butcher, I’m always keen to share my passion and experience in the meat industry and highlight the expert craft of butchery. National Butchers’ Week is the ideal opportunity to do just that. This year I celebrate 40 years in the meat industry - it’s been an eclectic career to date!

I’ve been with Sainsbury’s 38 years, with the first 12 years in the Retail Division, before moving to the Buying Division for the Meat Technical & Development Department and then moving into the Primary Agriculture Department in the Scientific Services Division. My current position is Technical Manager for Lamb, Game and Venison in the Meat, Fish and Poultry Department at Sainsbury’s. I’m also Sainsbury’s ‘licenced slaughterman’ and a Welfare Officer for Red Meat and Poultry.

In 2011 I completed my qualification to be named a Master Butcher, which was presented to me by HRH The Princess Royal. As well as being something I’m immensely proud of, it also puts me in a unique position as Sainsbury’s is the only retailer to have a Master Butcher. In fact, only 30 people have ever been awarded this status and I was the 5th person in the UK at the time to become Master Butcher. Earlier this year, I was pleased to be appointed a moderator for those hoping to attain Master Butcher status, and it’s a privilege to oversee the next generation of butchers embarking on this qualification.

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As part of my role, I will often conduct butchery master classes for Sainsbury’s colleagues (such as Product Developers, Technologists and Buyers) as well  butchery demonstrations on behalf of Sainsbury’s at agricultural shows and industry events like The Royal Welsh Show.

On any given day, I’m developing new, exciting, high quality products in our category. The product development stages are designed to ensure we only launch quality products that meet our customer’s needs and use the very best of our seasonal product ranges, sourced within the UK where we can. As an example, if I’m working on a particular product range, such as our premium ‘Taste the Difference’ lamb range or our Taste the Difference 100% Wild Venison, only sourced from Scottish estates, I’ll work collaboratively with various colleagues in our business, such as my Buyer, Product Developer and Agricultural Manager to reach a product of which we are all immensely proud.

Another important part of my day is working incredibly closely with our suppliers. Sourcing with integrity is at the core of Sainsbury’s values and as such, we work closely with each of them on provenance, sourcing, maturation and butchery specifications to ensure they reach and are maintained to our high standards. Together we look, taste and assess various submissions of products either at their sites, or at our offices, submitted for panel and then launched on shelves and our counters. No day is ever the same in my role, but it’s incredibly satisfying to see a product that you have worked so hard on being enjoyed by customers across the country. 

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Very recently I had the honour of becoming the 2017/18  Festival Chairman for The Butchers’ and Drovers’ Charitable Institution (BDCI).  Dating back to 1828, this is the largest Meat Industry Charity to cover the UK and Ireland and helps to support those involved in the industry who are in need.