by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
If you’ve bought your meat at the B&H Your Community Grocery over the past month and a half, you may well have appreciated the work of the B&H’s new butcher apprentice.
24 year old Tala Woods of Spencerville started her journey to become a butcher last fall, and is now licensed to practice as an apprentice. She will be fully certified in two years.
Tala grew up with a rural lifestyle, helping her dad hunt and butcher deer at home. After graduating high school, she attended Humber College in Toronto, receiving a diploma with honours in Baking and Pastry Arts. She admits, “I’m kind of a foodie.”
Tala attributes her shift toward butchering to Covid lockdown-induced boredom. She was looking for something new to learn in line with her values. She explained, “I’m really trying to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle and going back to shopping local. So the idea of being able to raise my own cattle one day, and butcher my own food, really appeals to me. Or to be able to do deers better at home, and be able to do more of them, will help us to eat local and eat more sustainably. I kind of got into it to have this as a life skill.”
In January of this year, Tala attended 8 weeks of in-school training with the Seaway Valley Meat Cutting Institute in Cornwall. The course is quite expensive, but the Ontario apprenticeship program pays for the majority of the fees, if one is able to secure a sponsor.
Tala set out to find a local sponsor, and, “everybody, just everybody, said B&H. Like B&H is the best, and Jim is the best owner.” Indeed, from the moment they met, Jim has been nothing but supportive.
Though Tala was clear that she didn’t expect a job to come from the sponsorship, she says the B&H “sponsored me and then ended up hiring me without blinking an eye.” She also suspects that Jim will be keeping tabs on the Institute in Cornwall in order to support other local apprentices in coming years.
It is somewhat rare for women to take on the trade of butchering. Tala admits, “I get a lot of comments like ‘You’re the only woman I’ve ever seen doing this’; or ‘Why are you doing this?’ But I hadn’t really thought much about it. It was just kind of something that I wanted to go for. I’m a go-getter!”
It seems that the life skills afforded to Tala through the trade of butchering are far more valuable and important than any stereotypical view of the trade.