Working as a Meat Industry Specialist: The Veteran Butcher

Who are the “Co” driving Neild&Co? Take a quick look behind the scenes of our company to meet one of the faces that make us a leader in our field…

Meet Neil Ayres – Business Development & Customer Service professional, mentor and veteran butcher. Neil has been with Neild&Co for the past 19 years. After 32 years as a practicing butcher in the Sydney metropolitan area, he decided to put down the knives and share his knowledge and passion for the industry with others. Today, Neil still considers himself a Butcher – he’s still committed to finding creative solutions, but just a little further back from the meat counter these days.

Do you consider yourself a traditional butcher or a modern butcher who thinks outside the box?

I definitely think outside the box. I am not an old-fashioned butcher by any means, and working for Neild&Co allows me to constantly think of new ways to approach things. Thinking outside the box is a quality that links us with all our partners. For example, we are multi-brand distributors. This allows us to work very closely with iKONpack and similar innovative companies in other states of Australia. As part of this like-minded group, we can offer better quality, better control and the best pricing of our stock.

Do you recall your first day working in a butchery?

Yes. It was a long time ago! Back in 1968 I started as an apprentice at a local butcher shop in Cronulla – A.J. Bush & Sons. I did my trial shifts as an apprentice and was approved to go on and become a successful full-time butcher.

Do you have any fond memories of your local community butchery when growing up?

As a young boy, Mum used to send me with change and a note to the local butcher shop. I handed over her order list to the butchers and they would always have a little joke and laugh with me as they packed up the meat from the note, wrapped it up, and put my change with the parcels in a string net bag to carry home. I remember it being good fun taking a trip there.

How has the Australian food and meat industry changed since you first came into it? What does it do best and what does it need to improve?

The industry has changed in every way. Meat retail as a whole is changing rapidly. From the regulations to the creative trends, meat marketing, the equipment used and the meat intake and expectations of customers. This is why it’s so important to stay ahead of the game, and that’s what I think Neild&Co are really good at. I think the industry as a whole is really adaptive thanks to all the hard-working and passionate professionals within it. In terms of improvement, I think more rigorous training regimes are needed, especially with the manufacturing processes, to guarantee consistent quality.

How practical is it for Aussie butchers to move to biodegradable, compostable and recyclable food packaging by 2025?

It’s 100% practical and it’s an absolute priority. From an ethical standpoint, but also to fulfill current marketing and customer expectations. The market is constantly evolving, new technology is advancing and it’s an important change we need to make for environmental protection too.

What is the most important thing Neild&Co do for Aussie butchers?

We follow our company’s mission to always try our best to understand what the customer needs and provide it, whatever it takes. We go above and beyond by helping our customers to actually grow their business. We provide advice on all aspects of food and meat packaging, with in-house expertise and skills relevant to different areas of the industry. We have expertise to deal with matters concerning manufacturing and marketing, plus butchers and support staff.

When you’re not working at Neild&Co, how do you like to spend your time?

Family time comes first, as I travel a lot. Then it’s water sports – anything on the water, I am there. I grew up near Cronulla, so if I’m not near the ocean, I’m not happy!

You are hosting a BBQ – what do you cook on it for your guests?

I have an offset smoker at home, so I would cook a roast lamb in it.

Most adventurous flavour of sausage you’ve ever heard of?

I was once asked for a premix sausage filling with the brief: “The World’s Hottest Sausage”. It was hot.

Your best piece of advice for aspiring butchers?

The three most important components of building your skills as a tradesmen:

  1. Communication
  2. Merchandising
  3. Food science & the manufacturing process

I advise any aspiring butchers to reach out to a professional already in the trade and model your skills on theirs. It’s also important to have a laugh – don’t take yourself too seriously and others will, ironically, take you more seriously.

Finally, in your opinion – what is the most revolutionary product available in the Neild&Co range?

I’m excited about two things: the CPET ovenable trays, which can help butchers tap into the Ready Meal market, and the range of environmentally-friendly packaging we offer.

Neil Ayres is just one member of our friendly team – call us for a chat about your needs today to see how easily we can help find practical solutions for your business!