THE small town butcher may be going out of fashion but for Butcher’s Block butcher Cameron Brechin it’s an opportunity to keep the tradition alive in Corrigin.
The National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC) Student of the Year award (2016-2017) recipient said in his short career he has had the opportunity to work with a multitude of butchers, slaughtermen and meat inspectors who were all considered experts in their respective fields.
“To be able to learn from someone who has spent a lifetime perfecting their job and their skills is just humbling,” Cameron said.
“I would have to say that this opportunity is the highlight of my job.”
Cameron said butchering was a dying art as retail shops were closing all over Australia, struggling to compete with the bigger supermarket chains.
“Because of this I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do what I have and to learn how I have,” he said.
Cameron works at the Corrigin Meatworks as a meat inspector, as well as at the Butcher’s Block, for owners Linton and Kerry Batt from Black Label Berkshires, who he said have a focus on staff education and skills training.
“At the Butcher’s Block we have another apprentice doing his traineeship,” Cameron said.
“At the meatworks we are training another meat inspector, as well as putting the majority of our workers through a course, whether it be stock handling, or a certificate II or III in meat processing.
“There is a huge range to choose from and we are trying to better our workforce while also helping them earn a qualification.
“When we get new workers we train them to fill a specific job and once they are competent at what they do then they branch out and learn more.”
Cameron said because they had a small team and lived in a small area, they couldn’t afford for everyone to have a single role like at bigger processing facilities.
“Everyone must be able to do a multitude of jobs, so that anyone can pick up the slack wherever it is found,” he said.
Despite having a certificate III in agriculture, a certificate III in wool classing and wool handling, a certificate III in retail butchering and a certificate IV in meat processing (meat safety), he wants to further his studies by doing a supervisor course, seeing that as the next stepping stone.
The 20-year-old wants to be qualified in as many aspects of the meat industry as possible before he is 30.
“I aim to be as high up in the chain as I can be without owning a shop,” he said.
Cameron pursued a career in the meat industry because it was what he was good at.
“I was once told not to waste your life looking for the perfect job – get a job, any job and make of it what you can and you decide whether or not it’s a good job,” he said.
“You’re the one who either loves it or hates it.
“In the end if it doesn’t work out, then move on and find another.”
Cameron grew up on the family farm near Brookton with his parents Peter and Theresa Brechin, where they produced and processed their own meat including pigs, chickens, lambs and cattle.
“For as long as I can remember I have helped dad and granddad to kill and cut and pack these animals,” Cameron said.
“This is where my interest in the meat industry stems from.”
Cameron said his grandfather Bruce Brechin had a huge role in his upbringing and helped shape his passions for the meat industry.
“His standards and expectations of the work that I completed are to this day, the highest I have ever found.
“He was a farmer to heart and they wasted absolutely nothing.
“If there was meat left on a bone I’d be told to keep trimming – ‘the only colour that you see in the bin should be the white of clean bone and fat’, my grandfather would say.”
Cameron went to primary school in Brookton before attending Narrogin Senior High School.
After Year 10 he decided he would rather do something more hands-on and enjoyable and convinced his parents to enrol him at the WA College of Agriculture – Narrogin, for his final years of secondary education.
“At ag school I met Natasha Reynolds who is the butcher and slaughterman for the school,” he said.
“She took me under her wing and showed me easier and more efficient ways to process the animals.
“She helped me to hone the skills that I had learnt on the farm and she taught me a lot as well.
“Natasha was the first person to show me how to cleanly and professionally dress a carcase to the meat industry standards.
“She is an excellent teacher and one of the best at what she does.”
While at school Cameron had several periods where he was required to do workplace learning.
“I came to Corrigin and worked in the butcher shop and out at the meatworks for two weeks,” he said.
“On the day that I was to leave, the boss Linton Batt, came down to Corrigin and spoke to me and ended up offering me a job.
“I told him I would love to work at the shop but I would first have to complete my schooling or my mother wouldn’t be happy.
“Throughout the remainder of 2014 I kept in contact with the staff at the Butcher’s Block.
“Our class graduated and I started work there four days later.”
Soon after he began working at Corrigin, Cameron met Sam Babbich, from Training Solutions Australia.
“He got me enrolled in a butchering apprenticeship,” Cameron said.
“The apprenticeship is generally three to four years long – I completed mine in two.
“As soon as I completed my apprenticeship I got Sam to enrol me in a certificate IV in meat processing (meat safety), which is typically a two-year course – I completed the meat inspection course in under a year.”
Cameron and colleague Claire McLeary entered the MINTRAC awards for 2017 and both won their divisions which Cameron said was unheard of.
He said without the support of his family and work colleagues, he wouldn’t have done half of the things he has done.