Butchery was the cool new thing in US foodie circles a couple years ago, with Julie Powell, of Julie and Julia fame, even writing a book about her stint as an apprentice at a butcher shop in upstate New York, posing for photos with her hair in pigtails and brandishing a cleaver. But long before butchery became a foodie fad, Una O’Dwyer was working away as one of the only female craft butchers in Ireland, making her range of high-quality sausages and puddings.
I met Una at the Totally Tipperary festival this past weekend, where I used her sweet chilli sausages as the star ingredient in one of my cooking demo dishes. Sporting purple Hunter wellies and with her husband in charge of the grill where they were cooking the sausages to sell in hot dog buns to hungry festival-goers, I asked Una how she got her start. “I more or less grew up in my dad’s butcher shop in Cashel, working there every weekend and throughout my school holidays. Even from an early age, I possessed an entrepreneur spirit, loving the buzz of the business and the interaction with customers. All I wanted to do was bone out carcasses and show off my butchery skills, even at the tender age of eight!”
After graduating with an honours degree in Food Science and Technology from UCC in 2003, Una lost no time setting up her own business. “In the butcher shop, my father had developed a very popular sausage, which was renowned for its taste and quality in the local area. I had always felt there was a considerable market outside Cashel for such a product — and there begins my story! After months of market research, product testing and endless tasting events, I set up Una O’Dwyer Fine Foods Cashel. During the first years of operation, I based myself in the back of the butcher shop, which allowed me to develop innovative products and test the feasibility of the business without having to invest significantly. The response to the product range was phenomenal — my biggest issue in the earlier years was meeting customer demand. In 2006, I built a specific production unit beside the family abattoir to house Una O’Dwyer Fine Foods Cashel, where we focus solely on making high-quality sausages and puddings.”
In addition to her black and white pudding and traditional hand-linked pork sausages, Una’s specialty varieties that differentiate her from the rest include smoked bacon and cheese, sundried tomato and basil, black pudding and thyme, sweet chilli, herb, pork and apple, BBQ Carribbean and Cumberland. Yet even with such a wide range, Una says that “with innovation at the core of what we do, our product range is constantly changing and expanding”.
So where can you find Una’s sausages? She currently supplies butcher shops and independent retailers in Leinster and Munster, but she’s working to make her products available nationwide. And out of all her different varieties, what’s her most popular sausage? “Our traditional still outsells everything else!”
Una O’Dwyer Fine Foods Cashel
+353 (0)62 65889
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