IT’S BEEN a busy week for S Collins & Son. The Scottish Butcher Shop of the Year 2012 has seen a 15 per cent increase in footfall in the past seven days in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, and the premises in Muirhead, Glasgow, has been bursting with customers from morning to night. Even burger sales have risen by 23 per cent.
“There have been a lot of new faces in the shop this last week, asking where we get our beef and where the meat comes from,” owner Stuart Collins told Scotland on Sunday yesterday. “All our burgers are home-made from locally sourced Scottish beef and suddenly that’s become important for people.”
It’s the same story across the country as butchers who trade in locally sourced, traceable meat reap the benefits of the revelations that some supermarket-sold frozen meat products, such as Findus beef lasagne, contained as much as 100 per cent horsemeat.
At Simon Howie butchers in Auchterarder, Perthshire, the manager Paul Jackson said he had noticed a distinct rise in customers coming through the doors. “Trade has really picked up recently,” he said. “Sausages, burgers and steak pies have been selling particularly well. We’ve got people coming in and spending quite a bit of money to fill up their freezers, a few that we’ve not seen before, and the odd one saying they’re not going to the supermarket again after what’s happened. Everyone says horsemeat won’t hurt you, but they’re missing the fact that they’ve been selling it as beef. It’s about traceability.”
The extraordinary route that the horsemeat products have taken to get to shop shelves in Scotland – via Poland, Ireland and the north of England – has highlighted for many consumers just how convoluted the meat trade is at the lower end of the market, and why knowing where your meat comes from is important.
Butcher Jonathan Crombie, of Crombie of Edinburgh, and a member of the Butchers Marketing Strategy Group advisory committee for Quality Meat Scotland, said customers need reassurance.
“There’s not a butcher in Scotland who is offered horsemeat,” he said. “You just won’t find it. Shopping at a butcher is about peace of mind and trusting where your food is coming from, and that’s where butchers like us benefit.”
However Crombie, who said he would be whipping up a batch of home-made beef bolognese tomorrow for some quality butcher-made lasagnes, pointed out that for those who do buy cheap meat from the frozen aisle, it is often a choice of convenience and cost over quality.
“Nobody wants to buy meat from a supermarket but they’re pushed into it because of convenience, time, parking, cost, these kinds of things,” he said. “People are trying to shop at butchers but they don’t always get the time to do it.”
Roddy McDougall, of R McDougall Butchers in Glasgow, best known as a supplier of quality beef from Highland cattle, said there was definitely more interest in where meat was originating from, but that the long-term view was less certain.
“We have a regular clientele and they’re definitely talking about it more. Our beef is all from Highland cattle and we can trace it all back, and people are definitely more interested in that element now,” he said.
“You do wonder what it will take for people to sit down and think about it, after the BSE crisis and now this. It could be good for the industry but we’ll have to wait and see.”
In Scotland, however, the prospects for shopping for –and cooking with – meat might just be brighter than the rest of the UK. A survey conducted for Quality Meat Scotland last year found that recipes made with red meat are more likely to be homemade in Scotland than they are in England and Wales, including lasagne, chilli and spaghetti bolognese.
It also reported that the proportion of Scottish people who buy fresh beef is 89 per cent, whereas south of the border the figure is 84 per cent. Said Collins: “People are waking up to the fact that supermarkets are not what they’re cracked up to be. Hopefully that’s something shoppers are starting to pay attention to.”