Get the most out of Butchers' Week

With the date for National Butchers’ Week in the diary and preparations under way across the country, MTJ spoke to some of last year’s participants about why to get involved and how to make the most out of the week.

National Butchers’ Week will return on 25-31 March and things are already shaping up for the campaign’s fifth year. As always, Meat Trades Journal will embark on a national PR offensive, with the aim of establishing butchers as the local experts on meat in the eyes of consumers. However, the week will only be as good as the butchers who take part and MTJ is calling on butchers across the country to get involved. Winners in our recent Butcher’s Shop of the Year Awards will be making the most of the opportunity.
Russell Allen, of Aubrey Allen, says that the week provides a great platform for raising national awareness about butchery. “It is an opportunity for a little bit of a wake-up call about what we do and a way to publicise it to a wider audience,” he says.
However, it also provides the opportunity for butchers to shout about their business locally. “National Butchers’ Week is national, but we are the people within that small town or village who are taking it forward within that area,” explains John Davidson of Davidsons.
Butchers who don’t take part will certainly lose a valuable PR opportunity, says Brindon Addy of J Brindon Addy. “You have got to go for it, because it is something that has national backing. If you don’t do anything with it, you are not going to get anything out of it.”
One advantage of getting involved in National Butchers’ Week is coverage in local press, many of whom are interested in community events. “If it is a quiet week in your local press, they will see what you have done and they will use it,” says Brindon.
However, it is not all about the newspapers. The week also gives butchers the opportunity to increase footfall and engage with their local communities. “The more reasons you have to visit a shop, the better. No matter what the costs, the more people you can get to come over into your threshold and into your shop, the better,” says Russell.
When it comes to planning your week, there are all sorts of ways to get people involved and have some fun. Last year, Aubrey Allen ran a competition asking children to name their ideal sausage ingredient, and then invited winners to make their sausages and put them on display. “It was great because you had the mums and dads coming in to see them,” says Russell.
J Brindon Addy also got local school children involved in the week. “We always go into the schools. We ask them if they want to come into our shop and spend a day in a butcher’s shop and see what it is like working in the shop,” he explains. “For the older kids it tends to be about the job opportunity, for the younger kids it is about learning about food and about where meat comes from.”
But it is not just children who want to take part and try out butchery. “People are quite interested in our industry anyway – particularly men, who want to put a white coat and an apron on and learn some basic butchery skills,” says Russell, who ran a ‘Become a butcher for a day’ course. John Taylor, of John Taylor and Son, agrees that the week is a great way to show off skills. “There is sausage-making, there is curing bacon, there are techniques we use to bone out, we have got such a lot of skills to show to people and that we need to keep in our craft industry.”
Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to keep doing what you do best, says Russell. “Make people aware of what you do. If you become a local expert for industry, then over time people will come to you.”
For more information on National Butchers’ Week and how to take part, visit www.nationalbutchersweek.co.uk.

Celebrity endorsement
National Butchers’ Week has already attracted the support of celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott. Here’s what he had to say about the week:
“I feel very strongly that National Butchers’ Week is a great opportunity for butchers to stand up and show their wares, and also share their experience. By promoting good-quality produce and making the public out there more aware, then you can encourage them to… spend is the wrong word, but you’re encouraging them to experiment, to look at things in different ways.
“People do demand more now: they want to know where their food comes from, they want to know about the quality of their produce - and they are prepared to pay for it, funnily enough, and that’s the significant difference. We’re more interested in what we’re putting into our bodies now and that has upped the ante and the standard, which is fantastic.
“I’ve been going to all these farm shows and, as you travel around the country and see the cattle, and the produce, and see what goes into it, you see that the farmers and butchers really care about it. It’s not just a case of winning a prize, it’s about producing the best. We want quality and it’s all about the taste.”

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