Updated: Jul 5, 2022
The celebrity chef is now well established in popular culture, but we are still waiting for celebrity butchers to ‘cut’ through to the mainstream. While working with meat is not for everyone, here at the Great British Meat Company we've discovered it was career defining for some well known people across the generations...
OZZY OSBOURNE (MUSICIAN)
"The best thing was to find a young sensitive-looking chick, and when she went to the bog, put an eyeball on top of her can of Coke... they would go crazy when they saw that shit."
Before he became The Prince of Darkness, and was just simple old John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne, he worked in an abattoir in Birmingham for 18 months in 1964-65.
In his 2009 autobiography I am Ozzy, he recalls that although he didn’t like it at first, this was the first job he was good at, and the first one he enjoyed. He was promoted to slaughterman, and goes on to explain how he went on to specialize in cutting out cow's stomachs for overnight soaking, pulling off hooves, and killing pigs.
His party trick on payday in the pub was to sneak cow eyeballs out and drop them in people's drinks. "The best thing was to find a young sensitive-looking chick, and when she went to the bog, put an eyeball on top of her can of Coke... they would go crazy when they saw that shit."
BRENDAN COYLE (ACTOR)
Most famous as Downton Abbey's Mr (John) Bates, Coyle was the son of a butcher and might never have made it to the screen if it wasn’t for the death of his father when he was just 17 years old. It sounds like he wasn’t a big fan of the meat trade though, as speaking to E News in 2015 he said he “worked at my dad's butcher shop from a young age and after I started school, I went to a meat factory and did all that. It's really weird, because I hated it at the time. I just wasn't cut out for it."
TERRY DEARY (AUTHOR)
The Author of the children’s books Horrible Histories (and CBBC adaptation) was a butchers boy in his fathers shop in Sunderland in the 1950s. It is believed the experience helped shape his now infamous dark sense of humour. In an interview with the Independent newspaper in 2006 he said
"The thing I particularly enjoyed was carrying a whole sheep on my shoulder and putting it in the freezer; I felt like Superman. That was dangerous too: it was a source of fascination to me that you could die pretty quickly if you were locked in. There was an exit button inside it but you couldn't see it, as the light went out when the door was closed."
By the time he was eight, he was making deliveries to the nearby streets in Sunderland on a bike, "It was a shipyard area and so was bombed in the war. Some of the houses had no external doors. In the summer, the children ran around with no trousers. I still remember clearly the smell of the houses: dead cats and vinegar."
VINCE LOMBARDI (AMERICAN FOOTBALL, PLAYER/COACH)
The man the Super Bowl trophy is named after may not be a household name in the UK but in the USA he is reverend as a legend both on and off the field. He is considered by many to be the greatest coach in American football history, and is recognized as one of the great coaches in the history of sport.
The son of a butcher in 1920s New York, from a young age he helped his father in the family shop in the Meatpacking district of Manhatten. He quickly learned how to lift enormously sides of meat around and how to cut up the carcasses. It is a job he apparently wasn’t not fond of, but he did acknowledge that the weightlifting aspect of the role helped to shape his young body, an asset that would later come to his aid as he became interested in sport.
It turns out that working in a butcher’s shop was One Step Beyond for Suggs and led to him pursuing a career in music.
When he was 16 in 1974, Suggs worked part-time in at a butchers shop in London, and ended up working 6 days over the summer earning £11 a week.
Speaking about the experience to the Guardian in 2012 the Madness lead singer said...
"My job was to take all the metal trays to the backyard and clean them, which meant scraping the blood and fat off them and washing them with cold water. It wasn't very nice."
"Then I got a new role, which meant I had to take all the horrible bits of a pig, including the ears, snout, bollocks and bumhole and feed them through the mincer to make something new and incredible that they called hamburgers. I'd do this under the cover of darkness and it was pretty horrible work. It's amazing what you find in a sausage. I could have chopped my finger off, wrapped it up in a sausage and you wouldn't know the difference."
So that's it, our meaty roundup of famous butchers. As we said earlier, it's definitely not for everyone, but it hasn't done this lot any harm by all accounts.