Farmer Focus: We must keep finding a gap in the market

I can’t say I’m a fan of the cold, dark months, but there is most definitely a positive effect on the shop trade. Sales of mince and dicing and roasting joints have soared as customers have more time to cook, combined with a craving for comfort food.

We are most definitely seeing a shift in what is expected from a “traditional” butcher shop, and I’d even question if we fall under that category at times.

Although there will always be demand for the more conventional cuts of meat, we are selling more of the unconventional cuts – for example, flat irons, onglets (hanger steak) and tri-tip steaks.

We also sell ready meals such as beef truffles, chicken kievs, lamb lollipops, chicken parcels, boeuf bourguignon and curry.

See also: How sheep farmers can protect next year’s grass covers

It is evident that the consumer is busier than ever, with work eating into family time.

Feedback from customers suggests there is an element of guilt when they purchase processed convenience food for their children, but due to being increasingly busy, a lack of time results in this being forced upon them.

That’s why we see the increase in prepared meals sales. Consumers can buy meat of the highest quality prepared by hand and still have the convenience required.

The high street is changing, and more importantly, people’s eating habits are changing. It is vital to our business that we adapt and evolve to survive and thrive in the coming years.

We have now started a delivery service offering monthly meat hampers. The customers are happy to receive a variety of cuts accompanied by recipe cards.

This takes the stress out of thinking about what to cook. We will also be launching a late-night opening “click and collect” service from our new shop in early 2019.

All these services put increasing pressure on our business, and further pressure on a small team, but they are essential for growth and sustainability.

Staff is an issue. The butchery trade is no different to farming and finding an experienced butcher who can manage a shop is difficult.

Three important factors are to keep looking for a gap in the market, keep standards high and always keep the customer wanting more.

Shaun Hall Jones is a Farmer Focus writer in Carmarthenshire. Read his biography.