Beware direct meat selling

21 December 1998

‘Beware direct meat selling’

FARMERS should beware of trying to sell meat directly to consumers, says a Welsh producer who has done just that.

David Roberts, of Trefrifawr, Aberdovey, who branched out into butchery in 1987, believes that, with supermarkets retailing more than 60% of meat, venturing beyond the farm gate is now much more hazardous.

He lost money for several years and found it hard to do both jobs well, Mr Roberts told Farmers Union of Wales leaders visiting his farm. If anything, market conditions were even tougher now because of the way the retail giants put the emphasis on standardised best cuts and a short shelf life, he said.

“There is no skilled, jolly fellow behind the counter ready to prepare what the customer wants, or to provide advice on using lower priced products,” said Mr Roberts.

“There may be a token meat slicer and dicer for show, but not an expert butcher. The customers only contact is with a check-out girl,” he added.

The result was an inefficient and wasteful system of meat marketing that forced supermarkets to charge high prices to maintain margins. But many customers demanded one-stop shopping, so the biggest threat to the future of meat sales was a system that neither encouraged sales, nor generated profits to satisfy supermarket shareholders.

Traditional butchers provided a fuller range of products, many at prices 20% below supermarkets, but struggled to compete.

The industry, he said, must go back to basics and do much more to get young people to try cooking simple meat dishes. The alternative would be a further decline in red meat sales.

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