National Butcher's Week roundup

The second National Butchers’ Week proved a corker, with butchers across the country taking part. We report on a selection of their activities.

The second National Butchers’ Week is now behind us and the event was a great success. Butchers up and down the UK seized the opportunity to get some attention on their business and reaped the rewards. Newspaper and media coverage was extensive, ranging from national newspapers like The Times to regional papers and radio stations.

Ed Bedington, editor of MTJ, said: “The coverage surpassed all our expectations and the media spotlight was firmly on the independent butchery sector in the last few days.

“We managed to get mentions for the week in a wide range of publications and broadcasts, even getting Terry Wogan to give us a plug for the second year running, all thanks to a few award-winning sausages! I’d like to thank all the butchers who took part in this year’s event – it’s a great opportunity for everyone to get some recognition of the skills and hard work that they put in year-round. Hopefully the benefits will continue into the rest of the year, with customers recognising the value of their local butcher.


Value focus

The focus for this year’s week was on value and how the butcher can help shoppers make the most of their budgets without letting the dinner table suffer. Bedington added: “We wanted to make it clear to consumers that it wasn’t just the supermarkets that were offering a good deal during the recession. Butchers have the skills and knowledge to sell cheaper cuts and give their customers advice on how to make the most of them. We put a lot of effort into getting that message across during the week.” The week received the backing of the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT), the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA) and the Guild of Q Butchers.

Graham Bidston, chief executive of the NFMFT, said: “The week was a superb exercise and anything that raises the profile of butchers has got to be very good. I’m quite sure there was a great deal of activity during the week and it was perfect timing, given the economic situation. It does help people understand butchers are out there and offer a service that’s in competition with the supermarkets.”

Members of the Q Guild also made the most of the week, with a range of activities taking place. Brindon Addy from Holmfirth, Yorkshire, made bacon sandwiches for all the children at his local school and has arranged to give a burger and sausage-making class for the children. To boost custom, he was also offering 400g of sausages free with every 1kg purchase of bacon.

Ian and Stephen Danskin, of Pearsons of Ingleton, were offering free tastings throughout the week, aiming to get customers to try different products, while Garth Steadman at Steadmans Butchers, Sedbergh, had around 70 people to an event watching four butchers demonstrate modern cutting methods, with Garth doing the commentary. Three cooks then cooked samples of some of Garth’s products, with waiters distributing them for tasting.

Philip Cranston, chairman of the Q Guild, said: “The Q Guild is fully behind the concept of National Butchers’ Week which is being shown to improve the image and standing of the profession. This is especially important in the current climate, when consumers are turning to the skills of the butcher as they look for quality value meals.”

Douglas Scott, chief executive of the SFMTA, said the week had been a hit north of the border as well: “It’s helping to raise the profile of butchers and that’s the most important aspect. It should convert more people to the belief that the best place to buy their meat has to be their local butcher.”

The week certainly proved a big hit, with butchers and farm shops up and down the country taking part to show the great quality they have to offer. MTJ roped in its regional winners from its Butcher’s Shop of the Year competition to help bang the drum, and our top butchers did the sector proud.

Davidsons Specialist Butchers in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, offered customers a range of pork pies to taste, including Drunken Pig, Wild Pig and Stinking Pig. “On Saturday we held a tasting of the pies. It was taken very well by the people in the shop,” said John Davidson, with the Drunken Pig pie containing cider relish, the Wild Pig pie containing chunks of wild game birds and the Stinking Pig pie containing Stinking Bishop cheese.

Bexleys in Liverpool also held special events for the week. Ian McCormick said: “We did cook-offs, sausages and burgers, one of our particular lines in savoury cooked pies and buy-one-get-one-free offers and we wore the aprons.”

He added: “It went down really well to be honest with you. It was very positive and definitely worth doing.”

Meanwhile, in Somerset, P & B Pyne held a competition for local residents that went down a treat. Malcolm Pyne said: “We organised the quiz at the local livestock centre. We had 10 teams and 100% attendance, it was brilliant. We did meat identification, 20 questions, and the sausage tasting. The team that won was the North Petherton Twinning Association and the Rotary Club came second.”

The Rotary Club will be donating the money it won to the PolioPlus programme while North Petherton Twinning Association will be using the money to host its twin town from France, Malcolm added.

Fields of Anlaby near Hull also held a special testing sessions for customers and attracted media attention from the local press. Brian Fields said: “We had a table outside the shop where we did cooked samples for the customers.”

Lucky shoppers could try Brian’s Philadelphia Chicken and Tender Pork Loins. “We got a nice write-up in the Yorkshire Post,” added Brian. “We got half a page in there, which is nice, it all helps.”

And it was not just our representatives who took up the cry:

■ The Blagdon Farm Shop in Newcastle upon Tyne gave customers the chance to enrol on a series of tutorials, enabling them to get the most out of each cut they buy as well as picking up some basic skills.

■ Devon butcher Complete Meats, held a colouring-in competition for children in the local area where
some of the entries were displayed in the shop.

■ Keelham Farm Shop in Thornton, Bradford, held free tasting sessions in its shop, combining both National Butchers’ Week and Bacon Connoisseurs’ Week, where it showcased its products and inspired customers to try the best of
British bacon.

■ Cheshire-based The Great Tasting Meat Company held a sausage-tasting give-away at Gate Farm in Poole near Nantwich. New recipe Buckshee Bangers were handed out and master butcher Geoff Broomhall prepared his latest pork and leek and Lincolnshire varieties, using a ‘secret’ mixture of herbs and spices.

■ John Mettrick, up in Glossop, Derbyshire, had a busy week with a tasting evening, a visit from primary school children and a trip round the abattoir with a group of catering students.


“All in all it was a very good week,” said John. “Trade went up by 15% on the week, which is obviously good. We sold an awful lot of beef joints. We got a turn out of 50 customers at the tasting evening, which went down very well. They had a chat with the chef and he showed them how to use cheaper cuts. We cooked quite a lot of recipes for them, so they could taste four different roasts.” John also had a visit from a local primary school and parents were raving about the visit whenever they bumped into him. A group of catering students were also shown around the abattoir where the only person to opt out was their vegetarian catering teacher.

PR success

The week was superbly timed from a PR point of view, with the national media holding the butchery sector firmly in its field of vision. There has been a wide range of coverage across a number of national newspapers in recent weeks, all looking at the butchery business, and recent television programmes, such as the Jamie Oliver pork programme, have helped fuel that interest.

Recent runs of Kill it Cook it Eat it have also focused on butchery and the BBC has recently announced it will be launching ‘Chop Idol’, a programme to find the UK’s best young butcher. Bedington added: “All this attention is great news for butchers. It not only focuses customer attention on the sector, it also helps flag up the possibility of a career in the industry with young people.

“It is vital to encourage more young people into the business and this added focus, coupled with National Butchers’ Week, to highlight the skills and qualifications within the trade can only help with that.”

Sterling support

The week was kindly supported by BPEX, Verstegen Spices & Sauces, Manchester Rusk Company, Lucas Ingredients, Dalziel, Hygicare, Viscofan, Harmony Farm and Weddel Swift.

And it was not just the butchers who helped bang the drum. The Manchester Rusk Company also used the week to launch its new range of marinades, which it claims will add some “wow” factor for butchers. The company says it wanted to create products that would achieve word-of-mouth success for butchers using them. Harold Sharples, joint-MD of MRC, said: “When people enjoy a product they will tell eight other people about it.”

As a result, the company has launched its Butcher’s Promise scheme, which carries a mark of excellence. Only products that score better than the current market leaders and are likely to generate customer word-of-mouth recommendation are eligible for the mark. The products will also be clean-label – free from artificial colours, artificial flavours and hydrogenated fats – and carry a ‘free-from’ tick.

To kickstart the scheme, MRC used NBW to launch its new Gourmet Range of marinades, all carrying the Butcher’s Promise mark. The range, which went on sale at the start of the week, initially comprises Sweet Chilli, Mediterranean Tomato and Caper, and Cantonese Style.

Jon Childs from Verstegen said the company was delighted to have backed the week: “At Verstegen, we are immensely proud to sponsor National Butchers’ Week. More than ever this year, butchers need extra positive attention and they absolutely deserve to be celebrated, not only by their loyal customers, but also by their suppliers. At Verstegen, we like to do our bit in recognising the sterling work that butchers do within their local communities.” Tony Fawcett, managing director of Hygicare, said the week had proved to be a great marketing opportunity for butchers.


Kicking idea

As ever, however, despite the sterling efforts of a great number of butchers, there can be only one winner. MTJ promised a case of wine to the butcher who came up with the most imaginative promotion during National Butchers’ Week. The winner this time was Joe Collier of Eastwoods of Berkhamsted, who managed to generate a big stir with his blue and yellow sausages.

To coincide with Arsenal winning the league at Anfield in the last game of the season 20 years ago, Gunners fan Joe Collier of Eastwoods Of Berkhamsted made the special sausages to commemorate the event, which saw Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 away to take the championship crown.

His activities attracted widespread attention. “We had a visit from trainee journalists from BBC Radio 4 and Radio London,” says Joe. “They were discussing and eating the sausages live on the programme.” The sausages, which were made out of saffron and apricots for the yellow, and blueberries for the blue, went down really well. “We sold them at 1989 prices, which is about £5 a kilo.” He added that the sausages will be featured in Arsenal’s matchday programme.

Ed Bedington, MTJ editor, said: “Congratulations to Joe – his promotion is a great example of how, with a little imagination, you can generate a huge amount of attention for your business. While his taste in football teams might be questionable for some, his innovative thinking is beyond reproach! Well done Joe.”