Butchering runs in Tom Bouchier’s blood, and it has taken him around the world.

“I come from a long line of butchers, there’s about 23 butchers in my family,” he says.

It’s a profession that might seem unglamorous or even off-putting to some, but not Bouchier.

He’s so passionate about butchering, he’s representing Australia in the “Meat Olympics”.

“Where this job has taken me is pretty phenomenal,” he says.

Tom Bouchier comes from a long line of butchers.(triple j Hack: Angel Parsons)

Next year, after the world’s best athletes have left Paris, the city will host a very different tournament — one where carcasses are the canvas, and butchers like Tom are the elite competitors.

Adelaide butcher Luke Leyson will captain Australia’s team at the World Butchers’ Challenge.

After starting out scrubbing mincers and cleaning trays at the age of 13, he’s excited to represent his country.

“We love to do it … to bring a spotlight to the industry and the craftsmanship of butchery, because it is an age-old craft,” Leyson says.

Luke Leyson and Tom Bouchier competed at the World Butchers’ Challenge in 2022 in Sacramento.(Supplied: World Butchers’ Challenge)

“It’s definitely a talking point when you go down to the pub and tell people what you do in your spare time as your hobby.”

In March 2025, 18 teams from around the world are expected to compete in the challenge, to be held in the same venue as the Olympic weightlifting.

Each team of six is given three and a half hours to turn a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens into a themed display.

“If you don’t utilise all parts of the carcass, you’re not going to win,” Leyson says.

Adelaide butcher Luke Leyson captains the Australian Butcher Team.(triple j Hack: Angel Parsons)

“We get judged on absolutely everything as soon as we step out into the stadium.

“We’re trying to push the limits with flavour profiles and cook-ability.”

Butchers are judged on their technique, skill and innovation.(triple j Hack: Angel Parsons)

Training for the ‘Meat Olympics’

If you’re thinking a steak’s just a steak and you can’t stuff much creativity into a sausage, think again.

This will be Bouchier’s sixth challenge, and he’s in charge of the team’s displaying and garnishing.

“There’s a hell of a lot of practice that goes in,” he says.

He says the team comes up with their products early in the piece, so they can take their ideas back to their shops to practice.

“It’d be like in sport, I guess the more reps you do, the better you get at it.”

Competitors in the World Butchers’ Challenge transform a side of beef, a side of pork,  a whole lamb and five chickens into a display.(triple j Hack: Angel Parsons)

The Australian Butcher Team also used the southern hemisphere’s biggest beef industry gathering, Beef24 in Rockhampton in May, as a chance to prepare.

They carried out several butchering demonstrations, including a live showdown between the team’s butchers.

Is butchering an art?

Adelaide-based Leyson describes his job as a craft and an art, because “not many people can do it at the moment”.

“We’re able to break down a whole side of beef and turn it into such a raw form … that really has some mouth-watering appeal — and for our community and customers, it’s a special skill to have,” he says.

“I don’t want to say [it’s] a dying art, but there’s not as many local community shops out there, especially in the tough times we’ve got now.”

Leyson sees himself as part of the “chain of agriculture”. 

His teammate, Bouchier, agrees butchers have an important role in the community.

“Everyone should have a relationship with their butcher,” he says.