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I want to prove it's possible for girls to be butchers, says Northern Ireland teen Codie-Jo carving out career in meat trade

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Trainee butcher Codie-Jo Carr

Trainee butcher Codie-Jo Carr

Codie-Jo with her tutor Micheal Prunty from Southern Regional College

Codie-Jo with her tutor Micheal Prunty from Southern Regional College

Trainee butcher Codie-Jo Carr

A Northern Ireland teenager is on a mission to prove the world of butchery is not a closed shop to girls.

While many of Codie-Jo Carr's friends have headed off from school to university, or are training to become beauticians or hairdressers, the 18-year-old from Keady was hooked on the traditionally male-dominated meat business and is determined to carve out a career.

Already dishing out prime cuts at Fred Elliott's Family Butchers in Banbridge, where she works part-time, Codie-Jo is well on course to making sure her career path brings home the bacon, as she is already planning to run her own butcher's shop in the future.

"I always wanted a career in food," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "I tried cookery but that didn't work for me.

"But it was when I spent my work experience at the butcher's counter in JD Hunter's in Markethill that I got the taste for it."

Back in the classroom at St Patrick's in Keady, her career choice quickly became clear.

Despite a late diagnosis of dyslexia, Codie-Jo did well in her GCSEs, but it was in vocational skills that she thrived.

"I was sitting in hairdressing and that's when it dawned on me. I didn't want to cut hair, I should be cutting meat! I wanted to be back in that butcher's shop."

Ambitious Codie-Jo now has her sights firmly set on opening her own shop and restaurant in the future and is already impressing people in the butchery industry with her skills and determination.

Currently completing a level two traineeship in butchery at Southern Regional College in Portadown, she was one of six butchers from across the UK who competed in the Butchery WorldSkills UK Competition final at WorldSkills UK LIVE, held at the NEC Birmingham at the end of 2019.

Although she didn't win, she impressed the judges with her skills and focus at the tender age of 17 and, having had a taste of the final, she is hoping to qualify to have a second shot at the competition this year. "I enjoyed the competition and learned so much from the other finalists and their displays," said Codie-Jo. "The whole experience of competing at the NEC was amazing and the final was a big adrenaline rush.

"Competing has boosted my confidence and customers in Banbridge have congratulated me for being a finalist and have said it's nice to see a girl as a butcher."

Now she's hoping to show other girls that it's time they had a slice of the action.

"Although this industry is normally for boys, there is nothing whatsoever stopping girls from choosing butchery as a career," she said. "I want to prove that it is possible for girls to become a butcher. My advice to them is to go for it and don't let the fact that it's a male-dominated industry hold you back. It's your future, not theirs."

Codie-Jo inherits her work ethic from her father, who runs a small retail and wholesale food business, Carr's Elite Foods.

"I just love learning different things and where different cuts of meat come from on the animal," said Codie-Jo. "You get ideas for new products that people haven't seen before," she added.

Her tutor at SRC, Micheal Prunty, encouraged Codie-Jo in the Butchery WorldSkills UK Competition heat in Glasgow as a "training exercise" but she went on to beat much more experienced butchers to qualify for the final. "She is going for a couple more competitions this year, but knows her qualifications come first," he said.

"She is a very determined, hard working girl who wants to bring butchery into the family business. I have no doubt that she will get where she wants to go.

"She definitely has that spark and the ability to light up the industry.

"She also wants to help promote females in the industry and her success has already encouraged two girls to enquire about our butchery course this year."

Belfast Telegraph