National Butchers’ Week inspires country-wide activity
With its third year now behind it, National Butchers' Week (NBW) is managing to build a strong head of steam, and butchers across the UK are embracing the opportunity to raise the profile of their trade.
This year's event saw MTJ search for the UK's greenest butcher, and that search led to Stewarts of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. This outstanding butcher, already the title holder of Northern Ireland Butcher’s Shop of the Year for two years running, literally puts the environment at the heart of its operations.
Ed Bedington, editor of MTJ, which organised the week, said: "We wanted an example of a butcher that took its environmental responsibilities seriously, and while we had large number of excellent entries, Stewarts really does set the standard for all others to follow."
Stewarts has taken an overall view of its operations and put in place effective measures to reduce its carbon footprint.
And it was not alone. Honourable mentions also go to: Complete Meats in Axminster, for reducing its waste and energy consumption; JW Mettrick & Sons, which has taken simple measures, such as more effective use of its ovens, to reduce its impact on the environment; Aubrey Allen, Leamington Spa, for its recycling and investment in greener packaging; and Daylesford Organics, which harvests rainwater for reuse in its business.
Bedington said: "We wanted to use this week to highlight some of the good work going on in the sector, to perhaps redress some of the 'eat less meat' claims being bandied about in the media. We wanted to point out that butchers are taking their environmental responsibilities seriously."
Green issues aside, the week saw a wide range of activity up and down the country as butchers got behind NBW and made the most of the promotional opportunities. North of England Butcher's Shop of the Year R Turnbull & Son in Alnwick, put the focus on traditional skills during the week.
Mark Turnbull said: "We put a daily focus on the niche skills a local butcher offers. So, for example, one day we focused on home-cured bacons and black pudding, and another day we focused on sausages." The events were backed up with customer offers, recipe cards and in-store tastings. Mark said all the events proved a hit with customers and the week was a great success.
Pearsons of Ingleton teamed up with a local pub, the Wheatsheaf Inn, to offer customers spending £20 or more in-store a £5 meal voucher and owner Ian Danskin said the offer generated considerable interest among customers.
Keelham Hall Farm Shop (pictured), near Bradford, held a series of 'Ask the Butcher' events, giving customers the chance to learn more about the butchery skills.
Head butcher Lee Scott said a series of sausage demonstrations proved a huge success: "We ended up getting kids who were in the shop involved in the sausage-making and they got to take home what they made."
He said the company also organised tasting sessions on a range of the shop's more unusual sausage varieties, including rhubarb and mango, and coriander, plum and garlic flavours. He said the tasting led to a four-fold increase in sales of some varieties of sausage.
Normanton butcher Terry McEvoy challenged year 10 pupils at the Freeston Business and Enterprise College to create a healthy meal using minced beef and two vegetables, and said the results were creative. The pupils created everything from Mexican fajitas to moussaka.
This year, MTJ invested in the creation of a teaching plan for sausage-making lessons. Spread across a series of five sessions, the plans gave schools the chance to organise a structured series of lessons, covering a number of aspects of the National Curriculum, and get butchers into the schools to help the kids turn their sausage ideas into reality.
The plans were emailed to schools across the country and proved a big hit. Butchers including Complete Meats in Axminster and George Debman in Ipswich jumped at the chance to get local schools involved during the week.
George said the week had proved a huge success for his business and he was already looking forward to next year.
Steve Vaughan, who runs Welsh Butcher's Shop of the Year Vaughan's Family Butchers in Penyfford, North Wales, ventured into his local school to give a talk on being a butcher and organised a colouring competition with the children.
The shop also held a special evening event. Steve's wife Helen said: "Our evening at the butcher's was brilliant; about 60 people and representatives from the local paper came along. It got everyone in the village talking."
The school visits also proved a big hit with the schools as well. Liz Sumner, from Willow Fields Community Primary School in Sunderland, roped in local butcher Andy Butler from Eric Robson's Butchers in Pallion.
Summer said: "Andy came to our Cookery Club. The kids loved it and we got some great sausages too. Andy made breakfast sausages, we had pork mince, seasoning, black pudding, beans and tomatoes. The kids were allowed to mix it up and it was such good fun and a great learning experience."
Holmfirth butcher Brindon Addy ran a competition inviting customers to send in their favourite holiday recipes in the run-up to the week. He said customers would often regale him with tales of weird and wonderful dishes, discovered on their travels, and urge him to replicate them.
Brindon offered a £50 voucher reward for the customer suggesting the best idea, which would then be sold during the week. The winning product, entered by Jane Woodage of Honley, was Ferchuse, a dish of pigs hearts, lights (lungs), red wine, onion and potatoes.
Butchers north of the border also made the most of the week, with a little help from the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Association (SFMTA), which organised a competition inviting consumers to submit their ideas for a product that the association could turn into a saleable sausage. Entry forms were filled in from butchers' shops up and down the country and many zany ideas were dreamt up. From those, 20 were shortlisted as original ideas.
The winner was a pork and caramel sausage, developed from an idea by 12-year-old Naomi Morris from Crieff, by Cumbrian butcher Mark Duckworth, of Dales Traditional Butchers in Kirkby-Lonsdale. The sausage recipe was distributed to more than 450 members of the SFMTA in time for NBW.
Douglas Scott, chief executive of the SFMTA, said the sausage picked up good coverage for some butchers, and he even conducted an interview on Radio Tay during the week. He said: "Meat Trades Journal deserves credit for this effort, which is clearly designed to give butchers the opportunity to raise their profile.
In Scotland, we have linked this with the launch of the new pork sausage with caramel. We put out press releases to local newspapers for 20 SFMTA members and a few got their pictures taken with the sausages."
He said those butchers who chose to use the opportunities created by the week and the sausage concept had done well, but hoped to see more butchers take advantage of NBW in future.
MTJ's Bedington added: "We're delighted the week has continued to gather support from butchers up and down the country. It was great to see so many schools taking part in sausage-making lessons, and we're determined to build upon the success of this year in the future. Thank you to everyone whose hard work made the week such a success."
This year's week attracted considerable support from companies from across the industry. The Q Guild, the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders and the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Association all backed the week, and sponsors included Bpex, Bizerba, Dalziel, The Dalesman Group, Eblex, HCC Meat Promotion Wales, Jardine Lloyd Thompson, Lucas Ingredients, MRC, Weddel Swift and the Scotch Butcher's Club.
Irish firm proves its green credentials
Stewarts of Enniskillen set the standard when it came to good environmental practices, scooping the company the title of UK's Greenest Butcher. The shop not only sources its energy from local wind farms and creates its own compost to grow its own produce, but has put sustainability at the heart of its operation.
Stewarts, run by husband and wife team Gabriel and Sheila, was held up as an example of how to be a sustainable butcher in the 21st century, following concerns over the impact of meat production on the environment. The couple are helped in their quest for green perfection by their son Shane and daughters Aisling and Kirsty.
As well as taking electricity from a local wind farm, the Stewarts have installed low-energy light bulbs throughout their shop in Church Street and estimate that their green efforts currently save 250 tonnes of CO2 a year equivalent to the amount generated by 45 UK households (Energy Savings Trust).
Gabriel, whose store nestles in the heart of the rural County Fermanagh town, said: "We take our commitment to being a sustainable business very seriously and our motto is 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle'.
"Our customers seem to appreciate the efforts we are making and we are constantly looking at ways to improve our environmental record."
Currently, the Stewarts' environment saving measures include:
* sourcing all beef, pork, lamb and poultry from local farms
* stocking venison from regular Forestry Commission culls of local wild herds
* using Airtricity, which generates electricity from local wind turbines
* heating their stairwell with heat given off from strategically placed refrigerators
* recycling all plastic metal, glass and shop paper waste
* composting all kitchen waste and shredded office paper, using it to grow fruit and vegetables in their kitchen garden all for use in their store's home-cooked recipes.
Every National Butchers' Week, MTJ offers a case of wine to the butcher with the most innovative promotion to mark the week. This year's winner is Aubrey Allen, which handed the knives to the customers and offered the chance for one of them to see life from the other side of the counter for a day.
The firm picked Jayne Neal, a customer from the shop's home town of Leamington Spa, and she joined master butcher Martin Crombie for a day behind the counter during National Butchers' Week.
The company's Lucianne Allen said: "We came up with the idea to highlight the importance of understanding the role of the butcher in the high street, and to remind people of the traditional role of the butcher, which is to advise people on cooking."
Jayne was given the chance to swap her suit for a hat and white coat and get hands-on experience of breaking down a carcase and producing some delicious cuts of meat for the shop. She said: "I was really excited about being part of the back-of-the-shop team, having loved visiting Aubrey Allen for many years as a customer. I would like to thank Aubrey Allen for giving me this wonderful opportunity."
And well done Aubrey Allen: the wine is on its way.