There’s no doubt, if you’re looking for good quality meat, then you need to find a good butcher. But how do you know if a butcher is good and what should you be looking out for?
Catherine Butler, MD of Hugh Phillips Gower Butchers, says the main answer is trust. “Find a butcher you can trust and you’ll always get the best quality meat for your budget.”
How To Find A Good Butcher
The first thing to do is ask friends and family who they would recommend and then look online on sites such as Facebook, Google and Yell. However, a word of warning. If you neighbour says that price is their main criteria for recommending a butcher then be careful. A low-cost butcher may be good at cutting meat, but good meat is not cheap.
You should shop around and try a variety of local butchers’ offerings. On your first visit to each store, let them know you are a potential new and regular customer. If you’re not an expert, say so and explain that you’re willing to pay a reasonable premium for quality meat.
Ask where the meat comes from and if they make their own sausages or faggots? Check if the meat has PGI status which is one of three European designations created to protect regional foods that have a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to a specific area.
If you’re let down by the quality of the meat, even after describing your expectations, move on to another butcher without hesitation!
When you find the butcher that you like (a butcher who understands their customers), let them know your preferences and they will take care of you
You will develop a relationship that is mutually beneficial. You get the meat of your desired quality and the butcher gets a repeat customer. What could be better?
Learn from Your Butcher
Your local butcher can teach you about good meat. For example, bright red beef is not always the best. Sometimes, a darker red shows a matured beef cut. Matured beef has a depth of flavour that bright red beef generally does not. A good butcher might tell you how the shoulder of lamb is cheaper and sweeter than the leg of the lamb. You save money but the butcher earns your trust.
Butchers with an interest in food often have recipes and cooking tips they are dying to share with you. Enthusiastic butchers offer this kind of added service. Keeping up to date with the latest trend in food shows they care about their product and how it’s consumed.
Good butchers, like Hugh Phillips Gower Butcher, will buy from local farms where the animals are slaughtered locally a this has a direct bearing on meat quality.
Animals that travel long distances before slaughter suffer a lot of stress. The result is tough and tasteless meat. Consider also the environmental impact of long-distance deliveries. Locally sourced meat uses less fossil fuel and is far kinder to the environment. Buying locally contributes to the economy of your area and also ensures you get higher quality meat.
Small local butcher shops take pride in knowing where their products come from. They have complete traceability because they buy from local farms or supply animals from their own land. They like to reassure customers of the quality of their products. They know their suppliers personally and the vast majority of products sold in butcher shops are freshly prepared every day. The value-add that a butcher brings to their customers is the ability to trace the origin of products, and their processing and preparation before arriving on the shelves.
Summing it up
To sum it up, talk to your butcher. Explain what you want and let them make recommendations. They will teach you about meat as your buying relationship develops. It is no shame to admit you your lack of knowledge about meat. Butchers might not know how to repair cars or build computers, so they visit experts for help. They are experts in their own field and you should use this expertise to get the best quality meat possible.