Butchers to look out for

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12 reasons to Make Friends with your Butcher this Christmas

Posted on: Dec 09 2013

“First make friends with your butcher.” It may have been said by Isabella Beeton and if so, almost a century and a half ago, but it could hardly be more apt today.

Yorkshire food writer and broadcaster Elaine Lemm says, “The knowledge, garnered by conversation with your butcher is invaluable, from cooking times to flavour pairing to confidence in full farm traceability. Butchers are simply a cook’s best friend.”

John Penny, Yorkshire Farmer and Meat Wholesaler, explains, “We all flock to the butcher at Christmas because we want the best we can buy for our family. However, visiting a good butcher shouldn’t be a once a year occasion, it should be a once a week routine.”

Yorkshire born TV chef Brian Turner adds his support; “Your local butcher values your custom, and takes pleasure in providing you with exceptional tasting, quality meat to be enjoyed by the whole family. They source traceable meat from reputable farms, and have a wealth of knowledge on cooking various cuts that they are only too happy to share to ensure you have a roast to remember this Christmas.”

Since medieval times Christmas has been a season of feasting for the British. It’s the time of year where we want to celebrate by buying the very best food to enjoy with family and friends. For Christmas cooks it doesn’t actually start to ‘feel like Christmas’ until the all the festive food is in the store cupboard or fridge. For many, a trip to the local butcher heralds the start of preparing the feast—reminiscent of the final scene in ‘A Christmas Carol’ where Scrooge redeems himself by procuring the prize turkey from the local butcher.

Regrettably many now favour the convenience of the supermarket to buy all their food in one place, but in doing so they are missing out on making friends with their butcher and getting the tastiest and best quality produce available. We know that the prospect of cooking a Christmas feast can be stressful, but a butcher can support you in preparing your meat and giving cooking guidance to ensure that you have a delicious and stress-free dinner.

So, we’ve given you 12 reasons to visit your butcher this Christmas.

Here are 12 reasons to visit your Butcher this Christmas (and year round!)

1. Full Traceability – a good butcher will know where his meat comes from and have a relationship with the farmer who supplies it.

2. Something special - a butcher can offer you something bespoke. Not keen on turkey? He can prepare a stunning rib roast instead. He’s not preparing for a mass market, he’s there to serve you.

3. Made to order - He’ll prepare cuts of meats to your requirements and mince meat to the quantity you specify.

4. Just for you - He will order special things, given a bit of notice; game in season, an ox tongue, a goose, pig’s trotters or organic meat.

5. Sausages - a good butcher makes a variety of his own sausages, from chipolatas, pigs in blankets to Cumberland, Lincolnshire, or Irish Breakfast. Often produced to well-guarded family recipe, and using quality ingredients, butchers sausages beat supermarket sausages hands down – and your butcher can tell you exactly what has gone into them.

6. A good butcher makes a selection of the following (or stocks examples made by local artisan producers) - bacon, black pudding, faggots, pork pies and pasties, pates.

7. Cooking tips - forget Delia, a good butcher will know how long to cook any roast or bird he sells.

8. Advice - he will advise you on the right cuts for particular dishes, and point you to where cheap cuts shine.

9. A warm welcome - a butcher will chat with you about your day, you won’t get that in the meat aisle of the supermarket.

10. Questions are welcome - butchers are there to cut meat and offer a service. Butchers love to talk shop.

11. Regular customers do get special treatment - pop in often and you’ll get to know about special offers and different deliveries, including seasonal products like game.

12. The butcher needs your custom - it’s a case of use them or lose them. Your High Street Butcher needs you to shop often and regularly.


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Tom Parker Bowles

Tom is a food writer and broadcaster with a weekly column in The Mail on Sunday and is Food Editor at Esquire magazine.
His books include E Is For Eating – An Alphabet of Greed, The Year of Eating Dangerously and Full English; A Journey Through the British and Their Food. He also co-presented Market Kitchen on Good Food Channel and presented LBC Radio's Food and Drink Programme.

The steady loss of our local butchers is cause for serious alarm. Just 2 months back my favourite butcher, Kingsland and Son, fell victim to a fierce rent hike and was forced to move out. The whole area is still reeling from the loss. Because butchery is both art and science. Not just in the physical act of separating different cuts from a carcass, but the wealth of knowledge any serious butcher has; where the meat comes from, how long the beef was hung, what cuts are better suited to braising than roasting. Support your local butchers. For the sake of the community, and your taste buds too.

Joanna Blythman

Joanna Blythman is Britain’s leading investigative food journalist and an influential commentator on the British food chain. She has won four Glenfiddich awards for her writing, including a Glenfiddich Special Award for her first book, The Food We Eat, a Caroline Walker Media Award for Improving the Nation’s Health by Means of Good Food, and a Guild of Food Writers Award for The Food We Eat.

We need to cherish the excellent traditional butchers who have kept going valiantly in the teeth of the supermarket takeover of our food chain. As the Meat Crusade puts it, if one in 10 of us returned to our local butcher that would be make a real difference. And if one in five of us did so, even once a week, it could start a revolution.

Jay Rayner

The award winning Observer Food Critic and One show journalist.

Jay currently chairs the new Radio 4 food panel show, The Kitchen Cabinet, having recently appeared as judge on Masterchef and The Great British Waste Menu, and hosted Channel 4's magazine show Food: What Goes in your Basket?

Now, more than ever, we need to know where our meat is coming from, and your local butcher is best placed to give you that vital information. There is no substitute for buying your meat from the people who sourced it. They are the ones who know how it was raised, how it was slaughtered and how best to cook it. If we lose our local butchers we lose an irreplaceable part of the food chain.

Brian Turner

A popular face on our TV screens, Yorkshire-born Brian’s career started in less glamorous circumstances - cooking breakfasts at his dad's transport café.

Your local butcher really cares about the meat he sells and the people he sells to. He deserves your support- let’s not lose him now.

Rosemary Shrager

Rosemary Shrager, talented TV chef and cookery school teacher, is renowned for her role on reality TV show, Ladette to Lady. Rosemary has worked for Pierre Koffman at the famous Tante Claire restaurant in London and also for super chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.

Rosemary’s TV career began with series Rosemary – Castle Cook, followed by Rosemary on the Road, both for Channel 5. She is now a familiar face on ITV, following up her Rosemary Shrager's School For Cooks series with regular appearances on The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

It is so important to support butchers, if we do not then they will go and then we really will miss them. These people know where all their food has come from, generally sourcing everything from the local area’s farmers. Support for your butcher is support for the wider farming community.