Owton's Butchers Brings Home the Bacon in Q Guild Smithfield Awards

Owton's Butchers in Southampton is the 2015 Butchers Q Guild Smithfield Awards supreme champion.

It is the highest honour a Q Butcher can achieve in the annual product evaluation event, open to the Guild's 110 members nationwide.

Owton's, based at Chalcroft Farm, West End, and run by husband and wife Rob and Gill Owton, clinched the supreme accolade with its Dry Cured Green Streaky Bacon, which had earlier picked up a coveted diamond award as the best product in the bacon and cured products category. Marked a perfect 100 out of 100, it was also chosen as Best English Bacon product.

Gill Owton said: “It's incredible to win. My dad was a butcher and at about six or seven years old I used to watch him curing bacon and it was just fascinating. About five or six years ago I said: 'Let's do that here'.

“We work hard to give the customers what they want. They know they can trust us.”

Best in class diamond award winners were also crowned in eight other categories.

Allan Bennett Butchers, in Station Road, Codsall, Wolverhampton, a double diamond winner in 2014, picked up another at this year's renewal with its Beef & Horseradish Sausage, which received maximum marks when voted best in the speciality sausage class and was also nominated as the Best English Beef product.

Q Guild national chairman, Alnwick butcher Mark Turnbull, also presented a special “Outstanding Contribution to the Q Guild” award to Allan Bennett, who began his lifelong career in butchery as schoolboy.

Now 77 and still closely involved with his business, he has been a member of the Guild since 1991 and has won more Smithfield Awards than any other Q Butcher, accumulating over 160 golds and several diamonds, also being crowned supreme champion in 2005.

“He is a legend in the meat industry and one of the most respected figures we have in the Q Guild,” said Mr Turnbull.

Corry's Butchers in Ack Lane East, Bramhall, Stockport, the 2014 Smithfield Awards supreme champion – it was the second time in three years the shop had clinched the top honour – picked up another diamond this year in the burger class with its best-in-category 'Lambretta' Gourmet Lamb Burger.

Scottish Q Butchers achieved multiple successes, including a brace of diamond awards. One fell to The House of Bruar in Blair Atholl, Pitlochry, Perthshire, which notched up a perfect score in the traditional pork sausage category with its Pork Chiploatas.

In Aberdeenshire, Davidson Specialist Butchers in Burn Lane, Inverurie, saw its Glazed Ham also secure diamond honours as the best overall product in the ready to eat meats category, including ready to eat roasts.

Patricks of Camelon, near Falkirk, scooped the Best Scottish Lamb prize for the second year in succession, this time around with the Main Street shop's gold award-winning Traditional Scotch Pie.

The Best Scottish Beef product came from Robert Alexander Butchers in Princes Street, Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, with its gold award-winning Steak and Garlic Mushroom Parcels.

The north-east also clinched a coveted diamond award when C Nicholson & Son Butchers in Park View, Whitley Bay, achieved a perfect score in the hot pies and bakery category with its best-in-class home-made Individual Steak and Blagdon Blue Cheese Pie.

There was another maximum score for Derbyshire butchers CN Wright in Alfreton Road, Codnor, Ripley, which was another top-rated diamond award winner with its Pork Pie, the best cold eating and bakery product,  and also Best English Pork product.

Diamond in the ready meats category fell to Robinsons Butchers & Delicatessen in High Street,Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. with its Lamb Beaujolais with Vegetables, also chosen as the Best English Lamb product.

From the same part of the country, Walter Smith Fine Foods, of High Street, Albrighton, also struck diamond in the kitchen ready category with its best in class Hereford Sirloin of Beef.

Flying the flag for Wales was Martin Player High Class Butchers in Park Road, Whitchurch, Cardiff, which clinched two major regional accolades with a brace of gold award winners – Best Welsh Lamb product with its Lamb with Rosemary & Honey Sausage, and Best Welsh Beef product with its Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine & Shallots.

The Smithfield Awards, the 29th year they have been staged, were open to all Q Guild members UK-wide and this year attracted a record entry of 472 individual products across nine categories from 56 Q butchers – more than half the national membership.

All were judged by independent panels of food and meat industry experts. The measure of quality was indicated when nine products received top-rated diamond awards, 221 products clinched gold - representing 51% of the total entry - while 113 silver and 72 bronze awards were also handed out.

Trophies and certificates were presented by Monica Galetti, one of the best-known female chefs in London and presenter and judge on BBC2's MasterChef: The Professionals, at a ceremony at Ironmongers Hall, London. (Thus, Nov 19)

Invited to taste a selection of award-winning products, Monica was particularly impressed with the ready meals. She said: “Imagine – it's so fantastic that you can go to a butcher's if you don't have much time to cook and come away with something like this.”

She told the gathered butchers: “I would like to thank the Q Guild for having me as a guest here – what an honour. In the industry I'm in, I have a lot to do with you and what you do. What I've witnessed here is the passion and the drive for what you do. What you do is important for the future – to protect what you do.

“These awards attract the younger generation into the industry and that's what we need. I believe we need to support you as restaurateurs. My restaurant will be open this time next year, touch wood – please, give me your business cards! I will be looking for butchers.”

She revealed that her restaurant will be on Charlotte Street, and named Mere after her mother.

Mr Turnbull said: “The Smithfield Awards remain one of the most demanding and stringent product evaluation tests in the land and the esteem in which they are held is clearly demonstrated by the fact that this year has seen record entries from a record number of businesses.

“All products need to be at the very top of their game to stand a chance of success and nothing says 'we're the best' like winning a Smithfield Award. They remain among the meat industry's most esteemed accolades, not only motivating recipients to introduce even more successful products, but also providing ideas and inspiration to fellow Q Guild members across the nation.”

The 2015 Smithfield Awards were sponsored by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which supports the English beef, lamb and pig meat sectors, Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Lucas Ingredients, Dalziel, The Scobie & Junor Group, Comark A Fluke Co, Hawk Systems, MRC and Innovative Food Ingredients.

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