A young butcher from Norton in Stockton-on-Tees has clinched the top accolade at this year’s prestigious industry awards. 

Max Smith, only 20 years old, from Blackwells in Stockton won the award for Young Butcher of the Year, beating competition for butchers aged 24 and under from all over the British Isles.

His employer, Blackwells, also scooped the award for Best Butcher Steak with its dry-aged sirloin steak at the awards. This award is organised annually by the Q Guild of Butchers.

The awards, announced at Butchers' Hall in London, have run for over 30 years. They recognise and reward the UK’s finest craft butchery products including sausages, bacon, burgers, steak, game products, BBQ products and more, and are widely recognised as the meat trade’s most high-profile and challenging product evaluation.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Blackwells, in Stockton, scooped awards.

Products are awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold award by a panel of independent industry judges, with all Gold products in each category then pitched against each for the category champion Diamond Award.

Scoring 69 points out of a possible 70, Blackwells’ Dry Aged Sirloin Steak was described by judges as “outstanding” and beat two other Gold finalists to secure the top spot and receive the coveted Diamond Award.

Anna Blackwell from Blackwells said: “That Max won an award after six months in the business is a testament to his character and work ethic and we’re incredibly proud to have him in the team.

“We’ve been members of the Q Guild and coming to the awards for years, but we believe our win this year came due to the passion of the team we have in place now.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Blackwells, in Stockton, scooped awards.

"Most of our butchers are in their 30s, they’re passionate about what they do, and we believe we’ve got the best dry-aged sirloin steak in the business, so it means a lot to win this award and the recognition that comes with it.”

Gordon Wallace, Q Guild Manager said: “The Smithfield Awards serve as a platform to recognise the very best in UK craft butchery, helping to elevate standards and inspire product innovation. They are the meat trade’s foremost and most rigorous product evaluation and achieving a Smithfield award is a fantastic endorsement.

“Our Q Guild Young Butcher of the Year award really is the most important of all. It recognises the skill, hard work and determination of our young butchers and provides confidence that the future of our craft is in safe hands. Max is an extremely worthy winner, and we were delighted to present him with his award.”

Blackwells of Norton is an independent butcher’s shop which has been the heart of Norton Village for nearly 70 years. The butchers' is a family-run business that prides itself on serving locally sourced quality meat and their famous pies and pastries. For the past 30 years, Blackwells has been a part of the Q Guild and is the only Q Guild butcher in the area from Northumberland to Leeds.