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I was lucky enough to meet and go behind the counter of a legendary butcher last week and even make sausages with some of the team. I say legendary because this butcher has thrived as many others have closed down. And tirelessly worked to improve local people’s knowledge of meat and food, regularly working 80 hour weeks.
Do you have a similar legend near you?
Like local pubs, grocers and village shops thousands of butchers shops have closed down over the last 10 years due to the ‘one stop’ convenience of the supermarket. Some supermarkets have even tried to contribute to closing local butchers shops by offering higher wages. Will these higher wages then be recouped by bigger margins on meat once the local butcher closes?
The main problem is that we have not just lost so many places to buy food, but also places to gain knowledge about what we are buying. In the good old days your grocer would say things like; ‘I got these ….. from the market this morning and because they are in season are cheap and really fresh and healthy’. And your butcher; ‘if you are making a stew use this shin of beef as it has more flavour and much cheaper than other cuts’. Or ‘I have some lovely, well hung, brisket that you can pot roast and will be as tender as a sirloin but less than half the price’.
The great thing is that most of the butchers who remain provide this kind of legendary service and knowledge, and help their customers get better, fully traceable, meat as well as save lots of money. The legend I met was Johnny Pusztai and his team at JT Beedhams butcher in Nottingham. To see some of their great videos click here.
Johnny rears his own pigs and beef cattle and employs 5 staff to cut and prepare the meat for sale. They also make 40+ varieties of sausages, cure their own bacon and ham and have a big range of charcuterie including an amazing choriso and parma ham. Johnny is also regularly on local radio and TV and at local food festivals and events giving cookery demonstrations.
His new venture is, I think the first of its kind, and reacting to the growing trend to eat out. He is turning the shop in to a shop/restaurant by acquiring the closed down shop next door and knocking through to build a state of the art, celebration of meat, with butchery blending in to meat restaurant. You lucky people of Nottingham, and well done Johnny, just when we meat eaters are getting so much grief from the vegans!
So please support your local butcher and give him, or her, a chance to be a legend by having a chat. Please don’t be afraid to ask questions about where the meat has come from, recipe ideas, or the best cut for your recipe. And yes we do eat too much meat, so buy good meat and cut down to twice a week?Remember that the supermarkets do not want us to know about meat and were very happy to sell us horse meat in ready meals. I once came across some economy burgers that were being cooked for some primary school children, the only beef they contained was 7% beef heart the rest was reconstituted chicken, rusk, and water.
That’s another story but shows how we must cut the long supply chain and go back to our butchers.