THE family butcher has long been a favourite feature of the high street - a stalwart which has endured despite the emergence of the supermarket and cheap convenience foods.
And since news of the horsemeat scandal broke, with further revelations making the headlines every day, consumers are flocking back in their dozens to their local butcher safe in the knowledge that whatever meat product they buy, it is quality which will end up on their kitchen table. The family butcher is undergoing a revival.
Lurgan butchers are reporting a boom in business, with many welcoming new customers in their droves through their doors. Gerry Mallon, who operates C. Mallon’s in Edward Street says that he has noticed a change in consumer attitudes, one which is putting how the meat is sourced as the number one factor when it comes to buying.
“The biggest selling products we have at the minute are burgers and mincemeat,” he revealed, pointing out that mincemeat is a versatile ingredient which could end up in a shepherd’s pie or in a lasagne.
“We buy our beef from local farmers, and our beef, lamb and pork can be traced to the owner. And people are prepared to pay a bit more for that now. Supermarkets were charging £1 for eight to 10 burgers and you couldn’t make them for that. People care more about where their meat is sourced from, particularly when it comes to their kids and schools.”
Of course the horsemeat scandal has created a maelstrom of equaine-related jokes and one butcher whose become accustomed to hearing them is Kevin Corey, of Farmway Meats based in William Street. Farmway Meats has been operating in Lurgan for around three decades and has become a name synonymous with quality.
“We’ve definitely noticed more new faces coming through the doors. The issue of food and where it comes from is in the limelight and people are aware of that now,” Kevin told the Mail. “Our mince and steak burgers are our two biggest-selling products at the minute.
“We’ve plenty of new customers and traceability is what they concerned about.”
That is message the paper heard again and again from every butcher the Mail spoke to and Jim McCann, owner of Jim McCann’s in North Street was no different. “I’d say business is up between six and eight per cent. Traditionally last week would have been a week when we would’ve lost money due to Ash Wednesday (first day of Lent when Christians fast) but we ended up having a normal trading week (due to the horsemeat scandal).
“My prices stand up against those in the supermarket when it comes to non-manufactured products like sirloin steak, because when it comes to manufactured burgers we can’t produce them in their millions but when it comes to quality we are way beyond them.
“Our beef is traceable from field to table; I know the breed, everything right to the end (of the process). Supermarkets have their own analysts so they’re not independent. We, like every butcher’s, have visits from environmental health as standard practice. Supermarkets say they know where their meat comes from but they can’t.”
Perhaps it can best summed by the mantra of John R.Dowey and Son who declare, “We only cut great steaks, not corners!”