National Butchers' Week 2012 Preview

Butchers up and down the country are being urged to make the most of this year’s National Butchers’ Week, which takes place later this month. The week, now in its fifth year and taking place from 25-31 March, is aimed at raising the profile of the vibrant butchery sector and puts the spotlight firmly on the craft skills, expertise and the great things the industry has to offer.

Ed Bedington, editor of MTJ, which organises the week, says: “Each year we’ve built on the success of the previous year and I’ve got great hopes for this time, with more and more butchers getting involved and promoting their trade, their profession and their businesses.”

This year, celebrity chef and butcher Henry Herbert, of Channel 4’s Fabulous Baker Brothers, has agreed to be the face of the National Butchers’ Week consumer campaign. A chef for eight years before taking over a family butcher’s shop in Chipping Sodbury, Henry is passionate supporter of the industry and all it represents.

“I think a butchers’ shop can be the real heartbeat of a high street,” he says. “For a lot of people, shopping is a horrible experience, because they are going up and down with trolleys in a supermarket. If you come into a butcher’s shop, you go out with a smile, you have a great time. I think that there should be a joy in shopping and people should enjoy it. If the butchers go and the bakers go and the fishmongers go, we are going to lose that, and that sounds like a very sad world to me.”

Chance to be noticed

Henry believes National Butchers’ Week offers an important opportunity for butchers to stand up and get themselves noticed. “I think National Butchers’ Week is a great thing for butchers to get involved with because the more people who get on the back of the bandwagon the bigger impact it has,” he explains. “It takes people to stand up and be noticed. As a butcher with my own shop, I like to be vocal and have an opinion and the more people that shout about it, the more notice it gets.”

Henry will be helping MTJ to promote National Butchers’ Week by taking part in TV and radio interviews as part of our national PR campaign.  
With the economy struggling and unemployment, particularly among the young, on the rise, this year’s campaign will be pushing the butchery sector as the smart choice, both for the kinds of cuts that suit our times of austerity and also as viable career option for young people looking to start out in life.

Bedington says: “We hear a lot of talk about unemployment among the young, and the costs of university becoming prohibitive, so we’ll be pushing the concept of apprenticeships within the butchery trade during the week. Anecdotally, people going into apprenticeships earn £100k more during their working lifetime than those who go to university, without incurring considerable debt.

“Youngsters going through an apprenticeship not only learn valuable skills, gain valuable qualifications and the possibility of a great career, but they get paid at the same time.”

Henry adds: “Butchery has had a bit of a bad reputation of late, but hopefully we can inspire young people to join again, because it is a fantastic trade to have. I love it and I think other people will love it once they get back into it.”

During the week, MTJ will use the PR opportunities open to it to promote the benefits of embarking on a career as a butcher. “What we, as an industry, need to do is begin to talk up the benefits of training as a butcher,” says Bedington. “There are some great opportunities within this sector and it’s a highly skilled job. We need to focus on the fact that becoming a butcher opens up the chance for youngsters to end up running their own businesses, becoming an entrepreneur, and everything that entails.

“Butchery can also be an entry into the wider meat industry, even the food industry. The opportunities are wide and varied and we need to start talking our trade up more. The catering sector has managed to reposition itself as the career of choice for many; now we need to see butchery doing the same.

"In fact, we’re looking for your attitudes to apprenticeships, so I’d 
urge you all to complete the survey 
within this feature, or visit to share your views. This will help form some of the basis for our PR during National Butchers’ Week.”

Ignorance on meat cuts

Last year saw the week generate a massive amount of publicity when a survey, commissioned by MTJ, revealed the public lack of knowledge on meat cuts. Bedington says: “We found 20% of a consumers thought that wing of pig was a genuine cut of meat, and managed to base our PR activity around the idea that there were some consumers who thought pigs could fly.

“We got a huge amount of coverage as a result, in both national print media, but also in broadcast and online. We’re hoping to replicate that success this year, but we’ll need your help by completing our apprenticeship survey.”

Another key plank of the PR promotion for the week will be a focus on the value for money available at the high street butcher. Cheaper cuts, and perhaps the older more traditional cuts, are all available at the butcher, unlike the multiple retail competitor. Oxtail, offal, skirt… the list is endless, and MTJ will be pushing the message that the butcher can offer meaty treats for less and can also provide the expertise and advice that less confident consumers will need in order to make the most of the cheaper cuts available.

Bedington adds: “A lot of consumers will not have the first clue what to do with some of the lesser-known cuts, but they are always looking for a bargain, particularly in these more difficult times. The great advantage of the butchery trade is the personal service a butcher can provide, along with the advice and information on how to get the most from such products.

Henry will be providing some austerity cut recipes for National Butchers’ Week, which will be sent out to local and national press in a bid to demonstrate how consumers can save money by using their local butcher.

“The butcher is great in economic hardship, because we buy in the whole animal. Yes we have the sirloin, the fillet and the rump, but we also have the ox cheek, the shin, the brisket – we have to sell all of it and there are lots of cuts that you cannot get at your local supermarket,” he says.

A recent survey, commissioned by Eblex, showed that 60% of younger consumers, aged 18-24, would like more information buying meat. This gives butchers a great opportunity to tap into that demand and provide information, both visually in the form of posters and tickets, but more importantly through talking to younger consumers, making them feel comfortable and unafraid to 
ask questions.

Roger Kelsey, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, says: “You need to advertise the fact that people are welcome to ask for advice and ensure the environment is friendly so they comfortable asking questions. No-one wants to feel foolish.

Meanwhile Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association, says butchers need to embrace modern communication methods to attract youthful shoppers. “Those who are doing really well are using Facebook and Twitter, doing loyalty schemes and special offers — you name it, they’re doing it.”
So, while good signage and promotional deals will bring people across your threshold, providing the right environment is key to encouraging people to feel more relaxed and seek advice.

Promote your business

National Butchers’ Week offers you a great platform to promote your businesses and increase trade. As Kelsey notes: “National Butchers’ Week gives the trade a welcome boost between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and provides an impetus for traditional craft butchers to exercise their imagination and increase sales 
with innovative products and marketing initiatives.”

However, the success of the week for your business depends on you getting involved and promoting your activities locally. To help with this, MTJ has supplied the sector with a wealth of marketing materials. Along with our PR Toolkit, which gives you a range of tips and advice on how to generate publicity for your business during NBW, there are balloons, bunting and badges all up for grabs to help you draw your customers’ attention to the events.

Bedington says: “We’ve also 
been doing a range of marketing activities to schools across the UK, alerting them to the fact the week is taking place and directing them to our educational resources on, which features lesson plans based around sausage and burger-making.

“We’re encouraging schools to get in touch with their local butcher, in order to bring those lessons to life with some hands-on experience. And why wait for the school to contact you, why not make the first move yourselves and encourage the kids to get hands-on in your shop, or pop along to the school yourselves.”

Previous years have seen a number of butchers get involved with schools, with the likes of John Mettrick, of JW Mettrick & Sons, Glossop, having a range of children of all ages visiting the shop throughout the week. Holmfirth-based butcher Brindon Addy has also taken the butchery into the classroom, taking part in fun-filled lessons with local schoolchildren.

Tell us what you are doing

There is certainly plenty being planned for the week, up and down the country, and MTJ is urging all butchers doing something to get in touch and let us know what you are up to — there is a chance of winning £900-worth of goodies for the scheme we judge to be most unique, effective, or interesting. The prizes have been kindly donated by our sponsors and include a £200 voucher from Lucas Ingredients to spend on any Lucas-branded product; a £200 voucher from Butchers’ Sundries to use on their online site; a £100 Marks & Spencers voucher from Eblex; a £100 voucher from Bpex; and a £100 voucher from Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales.

Bedington says: “Previous years have seen some great ideas come to life, with one butcher inviting a range of customers from different professional backgrounds to compete in a battle of the professions sausage competition. Others have set up their own online forums to help customers tackle tricky questions when it comes to meat. The scheme can be as complicated or as simple as you like, but whatever you’re doing — be it a straightforward tasting, to hiring the local village hall and organising a meat fiesta — we’d like to hear about it.”
To let us know what you are doing, drop us a line on email at, or call us on 01293 846565.

We are already hearing some of the activity that is being planned. For example, Keelham Farm Shop will be carrying out a range of events. The shop’s Nicola Bland said: “Every year we celebrate National Butchers’ Week and have lots of exciting things happening this year too. Normally, each year, we sample our award-winning sausages, home-cured bacon and award-winning black pudding, plus competitions to win a butcher’s hamper.

“However, this year, we are going to try something different. We have lots of schools that come up to visit us and learn abut food provenance and how things are grown and made. We have noticed most children do not know which types of meat come from which animal. So we are going to have a bit of fun with this and have a fun and educational game of pin the cuts of meat on the animal. We are making a huge cow, which will be marked into sections and we will be asking the children (and adults) if they know which cut of meat comes from which part of the animal — some children don’t even know which animal bacon comes from.

The shop will also be holding an Ask the Butcher event, with master butcher Lee Scott answering questions on a specially made stage in front of customers. Nicola adds: “We hope it will mean more than just tasting some products.”

Event sponsors

National Butchers’ Week 2012 is being sponsored by Eblex, Bpex, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Lucas Ingredients, Gordon Rhodes (Dalesman) and Trunet. Other trade associations backing the week include the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association and the 
Q Guild.

Stuart Revill, MD of Trunet, says: “We are delighted to sponsor NBW. As a multinational company, we supply from the smallest butcher to the largest processors across the globe. By sponsoring NBW, we are showing our support for this customer sector, which is very important to our business.”

Nick Allen, Eblex sector director, adds: “Butchers provide a vital link between the meat industry and the consumer, and National Butchers’ Week is a great opportunity to celebrate the wealth of knowledge and experience that butchers are able to share with their customers. In this difficult economic climate, it’s fantastic to see so much innovation going on within the butchery sector, particularly in terms of developing new cuts to encourage consumers to continue the meat-eating habit.”
l Watch Henry Herbert talking about NBW at

Badge of pride

This year, to help you make the most of National Butchers’ Week and promote your expertise to customers we have commissioned special (75mm diameter) badges for staff to wear in eye-catching bright yellow, emblazoned with the words ‘Ask the Expert’. The badges are £7.50, plus £1.20 p&p for five or £14.50 plus £1.50 p&p for 10. You can order them online at

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