"When I tell people what I do, their reactions differ. The men in the industry think it's a novelty that I'm a girl. They're just so proud that any young person still wants to learn the trade.", Amelia Watts, Apprentice Butcher
One Saturday, after a long day breaking down animal carcasses, I changed into my street clothes and bundled into a cab, before the driver asked: “Been buying lamb?” I didn't like to tell him that smell was me.
The smell was clinging to my skin and hair, despite having spent the day covered up in overalls and a hat. That was a shock – it's safe to say I haven't gone out straight from work since.
I have always loved food, but being a chef seemed so anti-social, and I wanted to be more involved in where the food came from. I had a bit of experience of unusual meat from my other interest, historical re-enacting, so I knew the blood and guts didn't bother me. It's fascinating seeing where the different cuts of meat come from, like doing a big reverse jigsaw puzzle.
When I first became a female butcher, I underestimated how physical it was going to be. I have to handle huge pieces of meat, like an entire side of pig, which is kept at such a low temperature that your bones ache and your hands throb with the cold. It can make working with very sharp knives pretty dangerous.
Your shoulders also hurt from lifting and I've made so many sausages in a day it gave me a crick in my back. Having said that, I do enjoy it (!) – there aren't too many jobs where you find yourself physically exhausted at the end of each day.
As a result, the sleeves of my T-shirts are starting to feel tighter, particularly on the sausage-making side of my body. It makes me a bit self-conscious on a night out. I'm a girlie girl, so having one big bicep isn't ideal. But I never want to be as exhausted as I was in my first week, so I try to see my new strength as a good thing. I could beat most of the men I know in an arm wrestle.
When I tell people what I do, their reactions differ. The men in the industry think it's a novelty that I'm a girl. They're just so proud that any young person still wants to learn the trade. Other guys I've told think it's cool – especially my boyfriend. It's only really a minority of people who turn their noses up at the gore.
Not everyone would care for the uniform either – overalls, hair back, no nail polish or perfume thanks to environmental health. But I do wear some make-up to work – no one needs to see my bare face at 6am.
My biggest fear is getting something wrong and ruining someone's Christmas dinner. In this job, if you get it right and sell a perfect cut of meat, you could make a family's Christmas Day. That’s what it’s all about.
Amelia Watts speaking to Tory Frost ~ The Telegraph