AS ENVIRONMENT Secretary Owen Paterson meets food retailers to restore consumer confidence over the horse meat scandal, north Derbyshire and Peak District butchers are enjoying increased trade as customers seek out more reliable, healthy and clearly defined foods.
Widespread concerns over falsely labelled products, wrongly sourced meats and unethical slaughter have erupted following the discovery of horse DNA last month in low-budget food products found in supermarkets.
Withdrawn lines of food have so far included Findus beef lasagne, Co-op and Rangeland burgers, Aldi lasagne and bolognese, Tesco burgers and bolognese.
Robert Bowring butchers, on Glumangate, and Meadowfresh butchers, on Market Place, in Chesterfield, as well as Peak District butchers have all enjoyed an upturn.
Cheeky butchers Laura Harbor and Brian Candling, of Bowrings, have also been pulling in the customers with posters stating “100per cent beef, no added Sherger (sic)” and “Be at the races with our horse free burgers - they won’t give you the trotts (sic)”.
Laura said: “People have been having a laugh at our signs, but sadly it’s a serious subject for the supermarkets.
“I was appalled to see how horse DNA had been allowed into products, and been allowed to be sold in processed meat goods, because we and other butchers pride ourselves on meeting food regulations.
“Some have also been allowed to buy cheap meats from abroad that aren’t subject to the same regulations British beef has to undergo, and their standards are nowhere near as high as ours.
“We just don’t know how others have got away with using horse meat for so long because the rules and regulations for butchers are very strict.
“We have spot-checks and trade description standards to meet, and if you fail to meet these standards you’d get ‘slaughtered’ – but others have been getting away with it for a long time.
“A lot of people don’t have a great deal of spare money so they have sought out processed, value meals but sadly these have not been giving the customer what it says on the label, and they don’t offer the same nutritional value as you get from a butcher’s meat.
“Robert Bowring prides itself on having a farm and rearing its own beef with absolutely nothing else added to the meat.
“Younger generations are now coming back to the butchers, changing their shopping habits. Now we hope they start using other independent shops like green grocers, too, rather than supermarkets.”
Butcher Nigel Sykes, of Meadowfresh, said: “There has been a bit of an increase in customers here since the horse meat scandal. It’s frightening to think it’s been kept a secret for this long when it has probably been going on for years.”
Fellow butcher John Hicklin, of Meadowfresh, said: “The slaughtermen who have been arrested in relation to this scandal are just the tip of the iceberg and will become the scapegoats for the supermarkets who will be able to use them as cover.
“Your normal butcher does not trade like this. We’re under much tougher regulations, thank goodness. But if something goes wrong for a supermarket it can continue, whereas it would mean the end of a livelihood for an independent butcher. You’d be shut down.”
Ed Armstrong, of New Close Farm Shop, in Bakewell, said he had noticed a ‘dramatic increase’ in customers since the scandal emerged.
He added that it was even becoming difficult to cater for the extra demand for trustworthy minced beef.
And David Figg, of Hollands Butchers in Youlgreave, explained how ‘the big boys’ had squeezed family butchers for many years, and was pleased that their practices for driving down the cost of meat had finally been exposed.