FARMER FOCUS: Butchers must adapt to changing needs

Well, the chaos of Christmas is over and now we’re into the quieter time of year, which means early finishes for the butchery team, as sales are at their annual low.

And hopefully the lads on the farm have finished cursing me for all the requests in the run up to Christmas from people desperate for orders. It always astounds me how the situation can alter so much in a matter of weeks – we surely don’t eat so much less in January than December? Pigs flying off the field to forks at a rate of knots one minute, and in the next we need more accommodation on the fields for the growing number of pigs we’re not selling.

I know one thing that really irks some of our customers is the fact that every year they will have new faces in their shops, purchasing solely for that one special day of the year, and know they will never see them again, at least not until next year.

Why does the meat on the Christmas dinner table have to be of the best quality, complete with the full life story of the animal, but not on the other 364 days of the year? And I know many people, in response to this question, will simply say “price”. But, looking closely, the prices aren’t actually much different. In fact, in many cases it is cheaper to buy from your local butcher than your supermarket when you look at the £/kg. My theory is that in a supermarket the customer knows exactly how much that packet of bacon or that joint of beef is going to be when they get to the checkout. Walking into a butcher’s shop, I guess, can be quite daunting, particularly if you don’t really know what to ask for, and don’t know the price until it comes to handing the money over.

Some of our customers have now taken to pre-packing and pricing products, and this has proved very successful. It does sadden me though that this removes the experience of that good old banter with the local butcher as he carefully butchers meat to your exact specification. But, as in any other industry, times move on, and you either adapt or become another statistic.

Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows

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