Catherine Butler is used to being a woman in a man’s world.
After more than a decade helping her father run the family’s abattoir and butchers, she has officially taken the reins as the owner of the company following her father Hugh’s retirement.
The transition was marked by her winning Food Standards Agency approval on February 27, meaning that she is now fully responsible for the business rather than operating under a provisional license.
Hugh Phillips Butchers dates back to 1878 and is unusual in having its own abattoir, which means that all the meat it sells is totally traceable, right down to which farm and which animal it came from.
This makes Hugh Phillips the only butcher on Swansea Market to have PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, indicating that all its produce is Welsh.
As she takes the helm, Catherine is looking forward to maintaining the company’s high standards.
“I enjoy being able to select the very best animals so that we have the best possible product to process and sell,” she said. “My focus is on upholding the quality standards, with great care taken at every stage of the process.”
She will also be expanding Hugh Phillips’ sales reach by offering its products via online mail order. A website with a shopping cart will go live soon.
“It’s exciting and daunting to be taking over here,” she said. “I’ve helped my father out since I was about six, when I used to stand on a crate to help dice meat. As soon as I was old enough to see over the counter I was allowed to help out on the market stall. I achieved my slaughtering license in 2008 but was working in the abattoir well before that as a labourer.”
She is now curious to find out if she is the only woman in the UK to run an abattoir and butchers.
“Being a woman in a man’s world is normal to me, but it would be nice to come to work and there be another girl here,” she said. “The vets who come here say they haven’t encountered another woman in this role: they have seen woman operatives, but not slaughter women.
“I’m not sure why there aren’t more women in this job, but it can be very physically heavy and demanding work. I’d be interested to find out if there are any more women out there in a similar role.”