Local butchers and producers are the ones to trust
PUBLISHED: 15:54 04 July 2013 | UPDATED: 15:54 04 July 2013
'Horse meat found in Tesco burgers' screamed the headines. The horsemeat scandal might have provided delicious fodder for the tabloids but it's had a sobering impact on consumer confidence, as far as meat buying in supermarkets is concerned.
A Which? survey, hastily carried out after horsemeat was detected in certain supermarket and fast food meat products, found 30% of consumers were buying less processed meat, a quarter were buying fewer ready meals, and 44% said they now paid more attention to the ingredient labelling on items containing meat. Consumer trust in the food industry as a whole had slumped by a quarter.
So isn’t this wonderful news for local butchers like, for example, Gerard King at the Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, near Ipswich? Gerard sources meat from local farmers he knows personally and visits regularly. Well-trained staff can tell customers about the provenance of the joint they are buying and advise them on how to cook it. The counter is a wonderful place to choose creamily-marbled, well-hung beef, generous Poll Dorset x Texel lamb chops from a farm down the road, and sausages made on site from Blythburgh free range pork. Consumers turned off by processed or low-cost meat can shop with confidence.
The scandal left Gerard feeling sad. “I wasn’t surprised when the news broke. Selling meat has become about the bottom line and some suppliers have been cutting corners for years.
“The sad thing is that it’s the less well-off who are affected the most because they’re the ones buying cheaper or processed meat.”
He insists it’s a myth that shopping with him is more expensive – he price-checks Food Hall produce against Waitrose – but accepts he is largely preaching to the converted. “What would have made a difference is if the media coverage had focused on encouraging consumers to go to their local butcher for meat – and the fact that it’s not necessarily more expensive to do that.”
People do need to be more concerned about the provenance of their food, Gerard argues. He and his team work hard to communicate their offer through newsletters, workshops, demonstrations, and holiday events for children. He loves telling interested customers about Bob Wilden, of Capel St Mary, who has supplied him with lamb since the Food Hall opened six years ago, or rare Large Black pigs reared by Robert Simonds in fields near Oxborough Hall, or Georgina Matthews whose Gloucester Old Spot herd lives a happy life at Oakhouse Farm, Sproughton.
He’ll also enthusiastically share seasonal recipes. New season lamb neck fillet is a good choice, he says.
“It has wonderful flavour and there’s a good fat content. Buy small medallions and you can grill them quickly because they’re so tender. ”
n Broxtead Butchery at Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, Ipswich, IP9 2AB
Tel: 01473 786610