Latest Stories

Country Cooking

Why butchery is also an art


WINNERS of Iron Butcher Challenge: Rommel Yanson, second place; Joemi Gan, first place; Gregorio Nazareno and Nel Vergel, third place.

At the MLA Iron Butcher Challenge, competing professional butchers had to make different cuts on a whole carcass of lamb in one hour

JUDGES Rafael Ramirez, Alan Palmer and George Oberle watch a contestant work.

There is something attractive about doing the right cut of meat. The slices come out neat. The pieces will cook uniformly at the same time. If there are bones, they will be harmless and will help in the presentation.

That is why I like to watch butchers in action. But even in supermarkets, a buyer doesn’t necessarily see them cutting the meat, because the cutting section is usually far from anyone’s view.

At the wet market, they work fast but rather haphazardly. And sometimes the cut isn’t as neat. I’ve had oxtail that had more rump than tail.

Unusual request

My most memorable butcher experience was in Iowa, USA. The supermarket in the town was known to have butchers who will cut the meat to your specification. We were going to cook adobo and we made one of them cut cubes out of pork shoulder butt. That’s the equivalent of kasim here. The butcher told us our request was most unusual.

Every country has its own way of cutting beef or pork. Our local butchers never did baby back ribs until there was a demand for it. And then there are the different names of cuts per country. Beef kabilugan is round in America and chuck tender in Australia.

I do attend seminars where master butchers teach their craft. This is usually conducted by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). There, butchers are taught how to get the most out of a particular cut. Or a different cut from what they’ve been doing before.

Will this homemaker ever apply those techniques? I would rather entrust the cutting to the butchers at the supermarket. I just want to know how.

Important cuts

MASTER butcher Rafael Ramirez doing the primal cut for a contestant

When an invitation to watch the MLA Iron Butcher Challenge was extended, I gladly accepted. This was at the Chefs on Parade event last month.

Competing professional butchers had to make different cuts on a whole carcass of lamb in one hour. They had to do primals, or important cuts, such as lamb neck bone-in and lamb racks. Other cuts were up to the contestants, but they all had to conform to industry standards.

Many of the butchers had never cut lamb before. But they attended a seminar before the competition conducted by Rafael Ramirez, trainer for Meat and Livestock Australia and a butcher who manages a retail and food service outlet in Perth. According to some of the contestants, there are some similarities in making cuts of pork and beef that made it easy for them to apply to lamb cuts.

Every carcass had to go through Ramirez, who made the big cuts with the electric cutter used in butcher shops. Ramirez was also the head of the judges; they included Alan Palmer, who takes charge of the MLA Black Box Competition (cooking competition with a secret ingredient); and chef Michael George Oberle, Ichef director of culinary arts. They determined who among the butchers deserved the three winning places.

So what were the criteria?

Since I do judge several culinary competitions yearly, I guessed it should include the following: clean workstation, a minimum of wastage, proper presentation, clean cuts, clean work uniform and hair protection and finishing within the hour allotted.

Official criteria

A look at the official criteria showed I did guess correctly, but there were more specific butchery criteria. Knives had to be sharp. Boned lamb cuts should be trimmed and cleaned. Two lamb cuts had to be practical and commercially feasible. Certain cuts have to be suitable to cooking methods. Presentation had to be clean and properly labeled. A plus also for value-added applications like marinating, roasting, burger patties and meatballs.

So as I went through the workstations, I just had to look underneath the work area for how much wastage there was. Presentation sometimes included plastic leaves that I suppose were a good color contrast to the red meat. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea, though—combining natural with artificial.

There were some who cut neatly and, for several pieces of the same cut, the sizes were uniform. I suppose that’s the art in butchery and this is the first line in the art of cookery.


There were 14 butchers who participated from the meat sections of supermarkets, hotel kitchens and agricultural food companies. First place was Joemi Gan of Savemore Angono, who was awarded a unique butcher’s knife trophy, a professional MLA Butcher’s Knife Set and P25,000 cash prize.

Rommel Yanson of Good Savers was second. There were two third placers—Gregorio Nazareno of Acacia Hotel Manila and Nel Vergel of The Bellevue Manila.

Hermie Suangco of Meatworld International Inc. was given a special award for creativity and for presenting the best utilization of the carcass.

The next question was, so what happened to the lamb cuts? I was told that all the butchers went home with their own to cook. I wonder how many did lamb adobo, caldereta, sinigang.

E-mail pinoyfood04@yahoo.com

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Art , Butchery , Food , Lifestyle

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • 14 killed in car bombing in Homs
  • 57-nation group plays key Ukraine monitoring role
  • French President Hollande’s top aide resigns
  • Japan to redesign Antarctic whale hunt after UN court ruling
  • Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford