Food & Drink

Sacramento beats out Paris and Sao Paulo to host 2020 World Butchers’ Challenge

Can Team USA win the World Butchers’ Challenge?

Danny Johnson, co-owner of Taylor’s Market and captain of the first-ever U.S. team to enter the World Butchers’ Challenge, has a message for the competition: Bring it on.
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Danny Johnson, co-owner of Taylor’s Market and captain of the first-ever U.S. team to enter the World Butchers’ Challenge, has a message for the competition: Bring it on.

Sacramento will host the 2020 World Butchers’ Challenge, the event’s organizers announced on social media Wednesday.

Sacramento beat out Sao Paulo and Paris to host the biennial 15-country showcase in late summer 2020. Taylor’s Market co-owner Danny Johnson deserves much of the credit for bringing the competition to California, Visit Sacramento President and CEO Mike Testa said.

Johnson captained the 2018 American team that placed sixth in the World Butchers’ Challenge in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where an all-Ireland team ultimately won the grand prize. He and fellow Taylor’s Market butcher Paul Carras teamed with charcuterie expert Craig Deihl of South Carolina, Virginia sausage guru Lothar Erbe, John Fink of San Francisco’s Whole Beast and Bryan Butler, who was crowned the best butcher in Texas at the 2017 Austin Food & Wine Festival.

Erbe and Fink won’t compete on the 2020 team, so four others will fly in to vie for their two spots at Taylor’s Market at the end of July , Johnson said.

Johnson and Testa hope to host the challenge over Labor Day weekend 2020, with Golden 1 Center being floated as a possible site. Visit Sacramento will foot the bill for some of the competition, with the exact amount depending on what events are held.

An informal presentation in Belfast got Sacramento on the World Butchers’ Council’s radar, Johnson said. When the council asked about extracurricular food tastings for international visitors, Testa pointed to the month-long farm-to-fork celebration Sacramento holds each September. That was enough to beat out bids from France and Brazil.

“A lot of what they were looking for in the World Butchers’ Challenge was having a food itinerary, and we had a lot of that already built in,” Testa said. “Our food resume is very strong here, especially in the last five years.”

The World Butchers’ Challenge has teams of six carving a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens into salable pieces within three hours and 15 minutes. The cuts are then judged on technique and skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation. Individual young butchers and apprentices also square off in a two hour, 15 minute competition for up-and-comers under 31 years old.

Hosting the 2020 World Butchers’ Challenge will bring roughly 1,000 international travelers plus an unknown number of domestic visitors to Sacramento, Testa said. Founded in 2011 as a grudge match between meatworkers in Australia and New Zealand, the challenge has steadily grown over the last five years into an intercontinental competition.

The 12 nations that participated in 2018 — Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States — all have right of first refusal, after which at least three countries will be added. Teams from Pakistan, Spain, Mexico and Egypt have all expressed interest, Johnson said.

“We’re the capital of the fifth-largest economy in the world, and there’s a lot to offer here between Napa, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco,” Johnson said. “When (other butchers) found out we were interested in hosting, they were like, ‘yeah we want to go to America, we want to go to America.’”

The Bee’s Benjy Egel is launching a new effort to cover Sacramento’s dining and beer scene. Please send tips and story ideas by email at, on Twitter @BenjyEgel or by phone at (916) 321-1052.

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