THE power of the supermarket is hitting the butchery trade as hard as the corner shop.

A sign of the rapidly changing times was shown when a competition launched by the Meat and Livestock Commission for young apprentices attracted only one entry from 275 outlets in the four counties of Hereford, Worcester, Shropshire and Gloucester.

That was from the Kington High Street butcher's shop of Glyn Slade-Jones, winner of a string of national and regional awards over the years.

The butchers and the commission say they are bitterly disappointed after expecting a good response from 16 and 17-year-old apprentices to demonstrate their skills in the meat competition.

John Holden, the commission's regional development manager, who sent out application forms to all the outlets in the area, said there were plenty of apprentices but apathy was obviously present.

Employers will either not give them time off or are not encouraging them to enter. Some apprentices might be too timid to enter.

The prizes for the competition centred on the preparation of a shoulder of lamb were excellent, said Mr Holden.

The disappointment was voiced by Marjorie Jones, one of the partners of the Kington butchers who nominated their apprentice, 16-year-old Joe Williams.

Mrs Jones, who has been in the trade for 21 years, said her son Glyn and apprentice Joe had spent considerable time preparing for the contest.

"What a poor reflection this is on the butchery trade to receive just one single entry," she said. "We were taken aback. We thought the competition would be good for Joe, would give him confidence, a chance to prove himself, and also show our backing for him because he is very good."