Are you ready for National Butchers' Week?

Butchers are being urged to dust off the bunting and put their promotional plans into action to make the most of National Butchers' Week later this month.

Now entering its third year, this MTJ-organised event is aiming to build on the work done in previous years to raise the profile of the trade. This year will see a PR campaign focusing on how butchers are doing their bit to help the environment, with MTJ announcing the UK's greenest butcher during the week (see panel on page 14 for the contenders).

Ed Bedington, editor of MTJ, said: "This week is all about getting the message out to consumers that butchers are able to offer a low-carbon alternative to other retailers. The positive messages associated with the butchery sector are the kind of things we need to broadcast to consumers.

"From cutting out the carrier bags and recycling waste, to investing in renewable energy and cutting down water usage, there are plenty of stories of how our sector is doing its bit to help the planet. We want to make sure we're getting that across to customers, who only seem to hear the negative messages about meat and the environment at the moment."

However, it is not all down to the MTJ team either; butchers need to get their own plans under way and make the most of the opportunity for publicity that the week affords them.

MTJ is also helping butchers to tap into education opportunities with the creation of a downloadable lesson plan for schools on Bedington said: "We've created a series of lesson plans based around the noble art of sausage-making, and we have been marketing the plan to schools across the UK. Butchers can also contact their local schools themselves.

"It's a great way to engage young children in the meat industry, and perhaps even generate some interest from their parents. One butcher who has done it many times in the past, even gets the parents into the shop to buy the kids' creations for weeks afterwards. I'd urge you all to make full use of the lesson plan and get in touch with your local schools."

This year's event has attracted considerable support, with a wide number of companies from across the industry investing to help boost the week. The Q Guild, the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders and the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association are all backing the week, and sponsors include 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.

Eblex's Mike Whittemore said the week was a great way to show support for the trade: "We are proud to support National Butchers Week. Butchers are one of the last master craftsmen still plying their trade on the high street; they are the bedrock of any community and it is vitally important that their respective local communities utilise this unique skill and range of excellence at their disposal."

Stewart Niven, MRC, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for the independent butcher to demonstrate their craftsmanship and creative skills to consumers who are looking for retail excitement and customer service for their money. MRC Flava-It glazes are proud to endorse quality and sponsor National Butchers' Week."

Niven added that MRC would also be carrying out a number of tasting demonstrations in the north west during the week.

Steve Derrick, sales development manager, Lucas Ingredients, said: "Because butchers' shops are the foundation of our business we have been selling our products to them since 1926 we are proud to sponsor National Butchers' Week, which highlights their craft skills, and to provide them with the best ingredients that make the best products for butchers to sell."

Stewart Legg, sales director of The Dalesman Group, said the company had no hesitation in sponsoring National Butchers' Week this year. He added: "We consider it an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of the independent retail sector, as well as building relationships with existing and new customers".

Keith Fisher, Bpex butchery development manager, added: "Once again Bpex is pleased to be involved with National Butchers' Week, as it continues to establish itself as a major part of the annual programme of events for the retail sector. We will be encouraging butchers to take part in order to showcase their skills and knowledge to the consumer." n

Top tips

Here are a few ideas to make a splash during NBW:

l Offer cookery and meat courses to your customers

l Lay on some fine wines and organise a tasting evening for your best customers

l Organise a meat quiz night, with pies for prizes!

l Create a unique sausage to celebrate the week, and invite the local papers to taste it

l Offer customers a range of special one-off offers during the week

l Hold a "meet the farmer" day in your shop, and give customers a chance to speak to your suppliers

l Create a PR stunt and invite the press for example, the town's largest pork pie, or buy in some spices, mix up some fiery sausages and hold a hottest sausage competition

And whatever you do, don't forget to promote the event well in advance, call in the press and shout about it from the rooftops.

Proactive butchers

The owner of the UK's Best Butcher's Shop, Fields of Anlaby, will be making the most of National Butchers' Week. Brian Fields, who took the top title at MTJ's Butchers Shop of the Year Awards last November, will be using a stall to promote the week at a local food festival in Hull. Brian will be joining top celebrity chef James Martin and local cookery expert Nigel Brown of BBC Radio Humberside at the festival at the Hull Truck Theatre.

He said: "I am going to promote NBW and give out brochures promoting our produce with cooking instructions, our website and the fact that we have won Best Butcher's shop. To follow this up, we are also going to cook and give samples to taste at the shop during Butchers' Week."

Brindon Addy, who runs J Brindon Addy in Holmfirth is inviting customers to submit their favourite holiday recipes in the run-up to the week. Patrons of the shop often tell of unusual recipes discovered on their travels for example, chicken stuffed with haggis (Scotland), stuffed pig's foot (Italy) and roasted marrow bone (France). Now Brindon wants his customers to send in their weird and wonderful recipe discoveries from either home or abroad.

The best of them availability of product and ingredients permitting will then be made up and sold over the counter during NBW, with the winner rewarded with 50-worth of meat vouchers.

The week will also see the business serving up free product tastings of its award-winning sausages, pies and home-cured bacon, as well as running a number of special offers. Brindon said: "In addition, we will be holding an 'Ask the Butcher' event, where our master butchers will answer any questions customers may have about meat."

John Mettrick, who runs JW Mettrick & Sons in Glossop, will be running a series of in-store discounts for customers, as well as organising mince, sausage and pork pie-making sessions with local pupils, and abattoir and farm visits for local catering students and customers.

Leamington-based Aubrey Allen will hold a series of events during the week. The shop's Daniella Kimberley said: "We've invited four local Leamington schools to come up with a sausage recipe and 10 children from the winning school will be invited to come and see the sausages being made on the Tuesday, with the winning sausages sold in the shop throughout Butchers' Week."

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