I'm Tasmanian by choice; an import! I have a small daughter whom I'm doing my best to raise into a strong woman, and I work as an apprentice butcher for a small butchery that focuses on local produce, whole-body butchery and serving the community.
Traditionally butchery has been male dominated, because meat and everything associated with it was not seen as “ladylike” - all the blood, sharp knives and heavy lifting. Not to mention all the farting and bad language! That being said though, there have always been women around - serving in the shops, processing smallgoods; from the yearly pig, raising chooks and killing them for the table. I'm lucky to work for a young, progressive company that is very much in favour of promoting women in the industry.
I am not very tall or strong and some of the physical stuff, like lifting heavy carcases, can be a challenge. I think I benefit though from not having that macho idea of having to prove myself, and I'll always ask for help if I need it - I refuse to ask more of my body that I know it can do. On the whole, there isn't anything that I've balked at. Some stuff is a bit gross but it's also fascinating - I always enjoyed dissection at school!
My great grandfather, Herbert Clark, had a butcher's shop in Essendon. All his family, way back before they came to Australia from England, were butchers. My grandfather bucked the trend by going into the foundry, and my father is an agricultural scientist. My grandfather Don is absolutely stoked to have another butcher in the family, and he is so proud of me.
As an apprentice it's so satisfying to work at learning a new skill and nailing it. I'm learning to use the bandsaw at the moment and at first I was terrified but now it makes me feel so badass! I also love the service aspect of butchery - connecting with the customers and getting to know them. It makes me so happy when they come back to tell me how delicious their dinner was.
There's only one other female apprentice butcher in Hobart that I know of and I haven't met her yet. But there's a good online community of women around the world whom I've got to know - Rachelle Hecht has her own shop in Montreal, and Hannah Miller is in NZ making her own charcuterie. There's so many to follow on Instagram.
I’ve not had any really negative reactions to being a female butcher, although my landlady did ask me if it would take longer to do my apprenticeship because I'm a woman. A couple of weeks ago a woman visiting from Queensland took my photo to show her young daughter, who wants to be a butcher. I told her to send her to me when she's finished school!
At the moment I'm really focusing on keeping my knives sharp and refining my skills. I still have a couple of years of training to go, and while my daughter is young I'm content with where I am. Eventually I'd like to travel and learn from other butchers and smallgoods-makers. I'd also love to train other women in butchery, but that is a long way off yet!
Photography by Amy Brown.