15 October 1999

Butcher/grazier well in tune with public


When it comes to selling meat, and attracting customers, the product needs to be consistent from week to week, says butcher Sam Papworth.

ONE advantage of being a grazier and butcher is that you know what type of meat attracts customers into your shop.

When it comes to meat this means consistency, says Norfolk butcher Sam Papworth. "It wants to look the same, have the same coloured fat and be the same size and price from one week to the next." Once the customer has become used to this, it is what they expect, he adds.

Being on both sides of the counter gives him an unique insight into meat quality and how to produce it because, like many country butchers, his family produce most of the meat they sell themselves.

The family company farms about 1600ha (3954 acres) including a large arable enterprise at Lodge Farm, Felmingham, North Walsham, Norfolk. Stock comprises of 550 spring lambing Mules,150 early lambing Finn x Dorset ewes, a single suckler herd and a barley beef indoor finishing enterprise.

They have one abattoir, which might be small, but is big enough to keep the slaughterman busy. "We kill five to six cattle, 20-25 lambs and 15-20 pigs at the beginning of each week." This supplies his two butchers shops in Swaffham and Fakenham in Norfolk.

Beef is the top seller, with all beef sold in his shops coming from Continental heifers, slaughtered at 12-14 months old.

Mr Papworth prefers heifers to steers because they are more consistent and seem to produce better quality meat, but they dont yield the same and are killed lighter, he says.

This doesnt affect the size of joint; as long as the beast has filled out to finish, it would still yield a whole topside at 5.5-6.5kg (12-14lbs). However, the quality comes from hanging, which is where he has an advantage over bigger abattoirs.

"We can hang a hind quarter for three weeks in the fridge area if thats what a customer wants."

Unlike beef, lamb quality changes over the year and this alters the way its processed. "Young spring lamb doesnt have to be hung for more than a couple of days. Hoggets need a week to 10 days," he says.

Most lambs are finished off grass, with spring born lambs having some creep feed, and later lambs finishing off stubble turnips and sugar beet tops. Meeting demand all year round is difficult and Mr Papworth buys in when necessary.

"Im not afraid to buy in meat, but it has to be British. I refuse to stock any foreign meat. I cant see the point when theres so much good British meat to source."

Like many in the meat trade, he feels there is much more that could be done to promote British meat and its quality through advertising and promotion.