Bringing Back Butchers: Campaign to Save the High Street Butcher Launches

Posted on: Feb 14 2012

A campaign to save one of our national treasures, the High Street Butcher is launched today by the farmer & wholesaler butcher John Penny & Sons. ‘The Meat Crusade’ aims to put quality butchers’ meat back on the British dinner tables.

John Penny, 8th generation farmer and butcher explains, “We were once a nation of shopkeepers with generations of butchers, bakers and greengrocers who knew every customer by name. The way we shop for meat has been radically altered by the domination of faceless but convenient one stop shops that encourage the use of mass food production techniques to create high volumes of produce. However, these techniques often reduce an animal’s quality of life, which in turn, affects the taste and quality of the meat we buy, it’s time that shoppers go back to their local butcher.”

The decline of the high street butcher has been swift accelerated by challenging economic conditions. There used to be some 22,000 in the mid-90s, according to Ed Bedington, editor of the Meat Trades Journal. In 2010 there were just 6,553.
“Hand on heart, I can vouch that meat bought from a respected butcher will be tastier, and in many cases better value than the equivalent mass produced offering. There is much public affection for butchers, but we need to get behind them so that they can compete in today’s fast paced retail environment. Raising awareness and encouraging shoppers to vote with their feet is key to our Meat Crusade.”

“The big advantage quality butchers have is that the staff are more likely than your average assistant on a large retail chain’s meat counter to be informed about where and what animal your meat is from. And it's not as if butchers can't compete with the mass market on cost either: you can buy aged hanger steak for £4.80lb, less than the supermarket down the road. You’re able to buy the exact quantity of meat you require and can buy forgotten “cheaper cuts” like belly pork, ham hock, shoulder and neck of lamb.”

The campaign aims to attract high profile support from chefs and food writers as well as help butchers to compete with the larger retail outlets. Not only in offering a wider range of goods, but how they trade. The campaign highlights ways to help them butchers trade, suggesting an old-fashioned delivery services or initiating an out-of-hours pickup service at the local pub.
“The High Street butcher has a great deal of competition in the 21st century, our campaign aims to level that playing field. If we don’t shop at the local butchers they will go, and that’s a huge loss to our High Street. They’re likely to go the way of the local pub. Once it’s gone, you can’t recover that loss. It’s time to halt that decline and celebrate what butchers do best, sell quality meat.”

“You have butchers that have been trading since 1815, operating the same way as they did in 1815, butchers have to change with the times and keep pace with the market. I If 1 in 10 people returned to their local butcher that would be make a real difference. If 1 in 5 went back to their butcher it would start a revolution.”


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