Master butcher goes in to bat for Conwy’s Bodnant Welsh Food

An award-winning butcher whose steaks and joints have fed some of the world’s top cricketers has taken over at a centre of excellence for Welsh food.

Master butcher Tony Gibson, 53, is the new man in charge of the acclaimed butchery at Bodnant Welsh Food, in the Conwy Valley.

Tony is from Scarborough and for many years ran Gibsons Butchers which was voted Yorkshire’s most dynamic and exciting family-run business at Barclays Local Business Awards in 2009 and North of England Family Business of the Year in 2010.

The Barclays win earned him a ringing endorsement from Reggae Reggae Sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots who described Gibsons as a fantastic business and an outstanding example of a family firm.

Keen cricketer Tony – who has been involved with Scarborough Cricket Club and the world-famous Scarborough Cricket Festival for 40 years – used to supply meat for meals when top international touring sides played their traditional matches at the seaside ground.

After selling the business two years ago he has worked for supermarket giants Tesco as a consultant and butchery expert, advising the UK’s biggest grocers on the remodelling of their meat departments and on customer relations.

He said: “I was seen as a good communicator and so I was involved in training staff in dealing with the public.

“They’re an incredibly powerful business but had been criticised for not being good at communicating so I was involved in coaching staff to change the way they communicated with each other and with customers.”

But Tony wanted to return to his roots and jumped at the chance to take on a new challenge at Bodnant. He said: “I’m from a farming family in North Yorkshire, just outside Scarborough and was channelled into butchery by my grandfather at a very early age.

“I’ve never known anything else. I was in the slaughterhouse at the age of seven and by 11 I was working in the village butchers.

“I was a keen cricketer and footballer but was raised by my grandparents and was always told that even if I could achieve something at sport I’d always need to be able to earn a living and I followed that advice.”

He started playing cricket for Scarborough aged 12 and has had over 40 years of unbroken service to the club as player, coach, committee man and chairman and has overseen the redevelopment of the famous club and ground.

He was a wicket-keeper and played for Scarborough with Yorkshire stars like former county skipper David Byas and England off-spinner Geoff Cope while England Test legend and TV pundit Geoff Boycott is a personal friend.

His involvement at Scarborough included arranging a £3.5 million redevelopment of the ground sponsored by Tesco and in organising the famous annual cricket festival.

That was in addition to running a successful business and he said: “The traditional environment has been my life. I understand livestock because we kept livestock at home and we had the butchers shop in Scarborough.

“I’ve worked with the multiples now as well and I was attracted to this as a return to my roots and as a new challenge in an environment which I love and which I believe in.

“People I know told me it was a gorgeous area and I knew the quality of the produce, particularly the beef and the Welsh lamb which has a worldwide reputation and when I came here I just fell in love with the place.

“I like the ethos here at Bodnant Welsh Food. It’s about the carbon footprint of the business and sourcing locally and I want to be involved in that at a local and Welsh level.

“It’s also about supporting the local economy and agriculture and that’s important to me because I recognise how difficult life has been for traditional hill farmers.

“The big multiples have done a good job for the customer and brought down prices but there has to be a recognition that for a high quality product there has to be a cost and the farmer who produces that top quality food has to make a living himself.

“This is food that hasn’t been messed around with and it’s increasingly important for people to know where their food comes from and I welcome that and I really enjoy it when customers ask where it’s from.

“The people here at Bodnant have a passion for what this business is about and I share that passion.”

Gwyndaf Pritchard, General Manager at Bodnant Welsh Food, said: “We’re delighted to have someone of Tony’s calibre and experience take on the role of Master Butcher here.

“In an area like this which is renowned for the quality of its produce and particularly its meat it is important to have someone with a real understanding of the business, literally from field to fork, and Tony fits the bill perfectly.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of our meat and on the relationship we have with our suppliers, many of them local and including our own farm estate because we actually produce 45 per cent of what we sell here on the Bodnant Estate.

“We list the farms which have produced the meat we have on sale which is all bought in whole carcasses and butchered here and if customers ask then we can not only tell them where the meat is from, we can often even give them directions to the farm.”

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