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UK Young Butcher of the Year
by Eilidh MacPherson
At nineteen most young lads aren’t taking life too seriously – they are into sport, girls, furthering their education or starting a working career. Very few contemplate establishing their own business, let alone in another country.
Opening a butchers shop in Dalbeattie, Dumfriesshire, on his 19th birthday was a big move for any teenager, “It was daunting to say the least," admitted Alan.
“He is a great talent, the best I've ever seen in 45 years of working as a butcher. I would say Alan is a perfectionist, and combined with his talent and his approach to hard work it makes him, I think, unbeatable. He has achieved so much already, but this is only the very start, and his future will be very, very exciting," reads the quote on his website from his one and only employer – Joe Hutton – who Alan worked for in his first year.
Coming from a pedigree sheep and cattle farming background gave Alan a head start in the quality meat stakes.
“I worked in the pig market from the age of 10 and then had a part time job in Joe’s butchers from 14. We only own 40 acres but rent a lot of ground so the option to go farming is there if I want it.”
Alan checked out the Dalbeattie butcher shop in the November with his former boss Joe Hutton, by January he had bought it as a going concern. “I moved to Scotland as Scottish beef and lamb are the best in the world,” said Alan who sources his beef from Scotch Premier and his lamb from Border Meats.
“There is not the selection of cattle round here in the markets as a lot of cattle go direct to slaughter. I buy Aberdeen Angus and AA cross Limousin and Simmental mainly.
“I’ve always been enterprising and ambitious and want to achieve more and do things a bit differently. I’m quite creative and like to come up with unique products,” says Alan, who has an array of value added products with a difference on display in the glass-fronted counter.
“Customers are downgrading with the recession and watching what they are buying but I am as busy as ever and finding that housewives will pay for convenience meals, which are ready and only need heated,” said Alan who scooped awards aplenty last year. Best Steak Pie, Best Black Pudding and Best Haggis, as well as the UK Young Butcher of the Year 2008, run by the Meat Trades Journal, are some of the titles that this energetic young man has to his apron strings!
As a result of his success Alan was invited to a reception with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Holyrood Palace and presented the Queen's chef, Mark Flanagan, with one of his prize winning haggis.
He now supplies 12 butchers in Northern Ireland with his prize-winning products and he intends to select some delicatessens with his Champion range – possibly Waitrose.
Alan, who employs 4 staff full time and 4 on a part time basis, has tripled his turnover since he started five years ago. He has one girl making pies full time – with 15 different varieties on offer. “I’m gradually revamping the shop, doubling the counter space and re-branding as I can afford it. His new image is already evident on his website – www.dalbeattiefinefoods.co.uk
At only 24, Alan has already appeared in Business Insider magazine, on the BBC Good Food Show, Landward and supplied meat for Gordon Ramsay, James Martin, Nick Nairn and Andrew Fairlie.
As to the future, he would like to invest in a manufacturing unit to increase sales of his famed products.