Making the cut as an apprentice butcher

Self-described “girly girl” Sam Chapman (above) is changing the image of the retail meat industry by competing on the national butchery stage.

After more than a decade in the retail meat industry, Sam is now in her final year of a butchery apprenticeship. “I was recently promoted to 2IC (second-in-charge) Butcher at New World Prestons in Christchurch where I have been based for the last four years,” she says. “I first got into this line of work at around 15 years old through my mum who was working as a check-out person at the time.”

Sam worked in meat packing part-time all through school but, after having two children of her own, decided that she wanted something more. “In May 2021, I asked if I could do an apprenticeship because I wanted to start building a better future for my kids.”

Training on the job has been instrumental for Sam, who says she learns best through hands-on tasks. “I do much better when you put something in front of me rather than reading it in a book. I’ve gained a lot from that practical style of learning, which I do in combination with a few days of workshops each year.”

“A lot of people might think that this is an unusual career for a woman, but I’m determined not to let that perception hold me back. From the moment I started training, the team here has taught me anything I wanted to learn. They have also supported me with a schedule that allows me to be there for my kids when they need me.”

Outside of the day-to-day responsibilities of her work at New World Prestons, Sam has found her competitive streak in butchery competitions where she loves to let her skills shine. “I was in my first Apprentice of the Year competition last year; I won my regional heat and progressed to the nationals. I didn’t win nationally but I did get Best Chicken Product and Emerging Talent.”

The recognition from that competition has been instrumental in building Sam’s confidence; she says she’s excited to compete again this year. “It’s so much fun – win or lose – and the friendships I’ve gained from competing have given me so much extra support.”

Sam showcasing her talents at Apprentice of the Year.

Sam is still settling into her new role as 2IC and is eager to keep changing perceptions in the retail meat industry. “Yes, there’s a lot of strength you need to do this work, but I’m proof that you can gain that strength on the job. It doesn’t have to be a male-dominated industry and I hope that I can inspire other women to consider butchery.”

Looking ahead, Sam hopes to progress to a management role one day. “Once I qualify later this year, I’ll move on to do two more unit standards: sausage-making and boning out beef. From there, who knows? I love doing competitions and I know that will remain a high priority, but if I keep pushing, I hope to be able to open my own butchery shop one day.”