National Butchers' Week under way

National Butchers' Week is under way and MTJ is pushing the message that high-street butchers are staging a comeback as the recession starts to bite.

Hard-up shoppers are looking to slash meal bills by buying cheaper cuts of meat, and where better to do that shopping than your local butcher?

Families hit by the credit crunch are turning to the traditional high street shops in one of the surprises of the economic downturn and butchers are benefiting.

While the number of butchers' shops has fallen from almost 9,000 to just over 7,000 in the past five years, the trend for closures has slowed and some butchers are expanding and even opening new branches.

Ed Bedington, editor of Meat trades Journal, which has organised the week, said: "It's clear that the traditional butcher is enjoying a resurgence. People are not dining out as much because money is short and are learning again how great cooking at home can be.

"Shoppers want that personal touch that local butchers provide. This week gives butchers the opportunity to create a real splash around their business."

Latest figures from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board show sales of cheaper cuts of beef, such as topside are up 23% and lamb mince are up by 65% in the past year, with offal sales rising by nearly 25%. Mince sales are up 5% and stewing steak up 2% while demand for burgers has increased by 5.2%, meat-based pies by 5.6% and pasties by 9%.

Some local butchers are reporting that trade is up by as much as 20%, as customers look for the extra service and knowledge not provided by supermarkets.

High-street butchers are also being more innovative by bringing in ranges of ready-made products and giving details of how to cook unusual joints.

This is the second National Butchers' Week following the launch of the scheme 12 months ago.

Masterchef presenter John Torode is backing the week. He said: "Butchers should stand up and say, 'I am proud to be a craftsman'."

Local butchers around the country are holding special events for customers. Bedington added: "It's great that local butchers are helping promote the industry. We need all butchers to get behind the week as well."

The week is being supported by the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT), the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA) and the Guild of Q. Sponsorship is also being kindly provided by BPEX, Verstegen Spices & Sauces, Manchester Rusk Company, Lucas Ingredients, Dalziel, Hygicare, Viscofan, Harmony Farm and Weddel Swift.

The emphasis for this year's week will be on economy cuts. With the UK facing a difficult economic situation, more and more consumers will be looking to save money and cut their meal budgets. MTJ will be promoting butchers as being expertly placed to help consumers save money, without allowing the dinner table to suffer.

Bedington added: "Butchers have the knowledge and expertise to be able to offer consumers the right advice and information on how to choose and cook the cheaper cuts. We need to get that message out to consumers - that it's not just supermarkets where you can get a good deal - they need to get down to their local butcher."