Jessica Wragg is a female butcher who sharpened her skills at the Ginger Pig in London, and is the Marketing Manager for Turner & George, one of London’s leading butcheries specialising in rare and native-breed meats, run by James George of Select Meat and Richard H. Turner of Hawksmoor, Blacklock, Foxlow and Pitt Cue. She’s also a freelance writer, advocating feminist issues in her work with Vice Munchies and Lenny Letter.
She spoke to our Alumni Team about being a female in the food industry, her dedication to her freelance writing career and the wealth of opportunities in the food industry that don’t involve food preparation or customer service.
What got you into butchery in the first place?
I fell into the job when I was 16, after interviewing for a Saturday job in my local farm shop. They asked which department I’d like to be put on, and I said I didn’t mind. it just happened that they thought I’d work well with the butchers. It was a happy accident, but nine years later the meat industry is still my career.
Can you give us a brief outline of your career to date?
I worked as a butcher whilst managing my studies up until the age of 21, until I started to realise that there were other sides to the business. After reaching out to the marketing manager at Ginger Pig, I asked if there were any jobs in the office going and she brought me in to assist her with PR, Marketing and Operations. When my time there felt like it was coming to a close and I no longer felt challenged, I spoke with James George and Richard H. Turner; they were at a point where T&G needed someone to head up their Marketing as the company expanded. I’ve been here for two years now.
What are your experiences of being a female in the food industry?
It can be very hit and miss. I still really do believe that butchery is the most male dominated career perhaps in the world. In my time within the industry I’ve met a handful of women butchers. In my opinion though, women have so much more drive and passion and especially in butchery, they want to succeed because they’re essentially a minority. There’s been some trying times, particularly when I was younger and stood up for myself a lot less than I do now, but once you manage to get a foothold on where you are with your career and where you see yourself going, you’ll find that people forget your gender and see your talent instead.
You’re a Marketing Manager for Turner & George – can you tell us a little bit more about the range of job opportunities in the food industry that aren’t about food preparation?
Every single food enterprise in the world, from small butchers shops to huge chain restaurants have a whole back office team that you’ll never come face to face with. They need people to deal with customer complaints, to market them, to run their operations – there are so many opportunities out there that don’t involve food prep or customer facing interaction. If you already have a solid career in the food industry, the next easiest step is to look into operations, because after all you know how things are run and the ins and outs of the place you work.
How do you balance your writing with your day job?
Because butchery can be so physically demanding, and I work anywhere from 50 to 60 hours a week even as a Marketing Manager, it’s very difficult to go home and see writing as anything but another job. The most important thing is the way you view writing – it has to be enjoyable, because if it doesn’t feel that way it’ll be hard to make yourself write. I try to fit in writing at least 500 words every day, and up to 4000 on my days off. Most writers will be the same – it’s super tough to sustain yourself on solely writing nowadays, so everyone has a day job. Don’t force yourself to write, just let it happen – the more you force it the less you’ll want to do it.
Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to forge a career in the food industry?
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The only reason I got where I am today is because I asked for opportunities. I’ve never had to give the employers a copy of my CV, because butchery is such a small industry and everyone knows everyone, so be sure to be kind to people you meet, as well. There’s nothing worse than getting a bad reputation, because word certainly spreads. You’ll never know when you might be looking to those people to further your career.