Once every high street boasted a butcher or two, then along came giant supermarkets and things changed. In the early 1990s the number of butchers in Britain was 15000; by the millennium there were just 6000.
But in the past few years things have been looking up for butchery. Consumers are demanding more locally sourced and sustainable meat. The horsemeat scandal a few years ago also gave the industry a boost as consumers became more wary about processed food.
One of the main influences though has been the rise in cookery programmes. We are becoming a nation of cooks. Celebrity chefs urge shoppers to try unusual cuts of locally sourced meat and this has prompted a boom for traditional high street butchers. When Jamie Oliver praises the thrifty tastiness of brisket, viewers are quick to follow his advice and head to their local butcher.
The Meat Trades journal – which organises National Butchers’ Week – reports that an “overwhelming number” of people in the UK would prefer to buy from a butcher than a supermarket.
Because it was often a family business, lots of butchers can trace their origins back generations. These businesses take great pride in their work. A good butcher will be able to advise on portion size and cooking methods, and will do some or all of the meat preparation for you.
It might be a little early in the year to bust out the BBQ but a nice slow-cooked brisket could be the perfect supper dish for a chilly March evening.