French butcher seeks to carve out UNESCO distinction

PARIS (AFP) – Victor Dumas is convinced that his fellow French butchers wield their knives unlike any others, and is hoping the United Nations (UN) will agree they deserve pride of place at the global culinary table.

Dumas, 21, has been touring France for the past year in a campaign to win recognition of his skills from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) cultural agency, which curates a list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. “There’s a really distinct way of carving in France,” he told AFP this week in Paris, where he met with chefs as well as fellow butchers known for their dedication to using everything from “nose to tail”.

Travelling to Belfast for the World Butchers’ Challenge in 2018, where he took third prize in the apprentice category, made him realise the French had elevated the age-old craft of carving up animals to an art.

“In a beef carcass, we’re going to come up with 40 different cuts… whereas others aren’t going to make the most of the meat” and settle for just five or six pieces, Dumas said.

He wants French butchering to be honoured alongside Chinese calligraphy, Tinian marble-carving and Kazakh yurt construction on the UNESCO list.

The distinction would bring a welcome boost as the number of French artisan butchers has been dwindling, in part reflecting a social shift towards eating less meat.

But Dumas does not think his profession is in danger.