At last, Summer 2021 is here. The fog of difficult times and lockdown is lifting and there is a positive feeling and vibe of being able to get back on track. Looking back to the challenges of last year, it is fair to say that shopping for some products at the beginning of the first COVID lockdown, was more than a bit tricky. A huge challenge which had to be overcome. We were all too well aware that panic buying was resulting in short supply across a huge variety of products, from toilet rolls to pasta as well as various, fresh produce, food items. Many of us wanted to avoid the supply shortages, so we looked for and found alternative routes to shop and high street butchers, grocers and farm shops were on the front line. Using fresh meat produce as an example for shopping habits, farminguk news reported that new analysis showed the 12 month period ending 21 February 2021, saw a return of the public to their local, high street butchers. Also, around 630,000 more households visited independent retail butchers in Britain compared to the previous year, this, according to figures by Kantar.
These new shopping routines were led by need and empty shelves. Now, this is no longer the case. As we are getting back to business and more normal routines post lockdown, are we going to continue supporting our independent food retailers? The perception is that we will end up spending more money if we do and this could easily be a factor in driving us back to the supermarket and slipping back to old habits. We agree, it is really easy in that traditional, artisan environment, to be tempted by all the great produce and luxury goods on sale but there are plenty of benefits in shopping at small independent food retailers, for us all to be more aware of. Meat is high quality, high welfare and high taste and veg is fresher, naturally shaped, unpackaged and in many cases comes straight from the farmer’s field. Good deals on less expensive meat cuts are available and fresh veg and fruit is seasonal and tastier, whether you are feeding the whole family or creating a meal just for two. It’s also important to think about all those added values and benefits which should keep us seeking out our local butcher or farm shop, as well as returning to them week on week.
When you visit your high street butcher or local farm shop, you are not just helping to support an independent small food retail business, but all the other small businesses within that supply chain. You are doing your bit to help get businesses back on track, buying British produce and supporting the rural economy and countryside jobs, as well as the supporting our local high streets. Buying British, you are also proactively contributing to lower food miles, which collectively helps reduce the impacts of intensive meat production and transport on climate change, so we can all take these positive steps to support sustainable food production and British farming. We all love the idyll of the picture postcard British landscape with animals dotted around rolling pastures. By buying from your local butcher or farm shop, you are positively contributing to how farmland and pastures are managed and how our beautiful British countryside looks, if that is something which is important to you. It is to us. Our much loved, neatly grazed green fields and arable land, bordered by well-maintained hedgerows, which are havens for our birds, bees and other wildlife, are manmade and managed landscapes. They are not the natural, wild landscape we may presume and these landscapes are maintained by having that balance and mix of nature and conservation with sustainable, food production and high animal welfare. These are all positive outcomes which are supported by us using our small independent food retailers.
Over and above these benefits, you can never fail to appreciate the atmosphere and overall difference in the service approach which you are highly likely to experience and enjoy, when shopping in a traditional, artisan environment. Your butcher will offer you advice on cuts and how best to cook them, advise you where the meat comes from and in many cases know the farmer personally and be able to tell you far more about exactly how the animal has been reared, whether it is organic or a heritage breed. They may even be the farmer and the butchery you use is a diversification of their farming business. Your farm shop will also sell you products which are in season, ensure you know what is fresh or organic and where its grown. Our independent food retailers are absolutely passionate about provenance and sustainability. Where each animal carcass has come from, what it has been fed on, how old it is, what breed it is and using the whole of the carcass. For fruit and veg, it might be where the strawberries are grown, whether it’s a good season for raspberries, what day the asparagus was cut or what day to expect the sprouting broccoli to be in. The care, quality and taste shine through. Young farmers and new apprentice butchers coming through the system, also develop those same passions and skills, building on that traditional ethos and pride in the way they work. Buying British produce from your local, independent food retailers supports that continuity and succession.
At Row & Sons, we believe these values and outcomes are so important to support and maintain. We have been serving the butchery industry, building traditional British, reversible Maple Butchers Blocks since 1880. Our range of high quality, hardwood butchers’ blocks, chopping blocks and cutting boards built and crafted with that same pride and passion, became an established and trusted brand, with skills being passed down from generation to generation. We continue to pride ourselves on high quality and traditional values, providing dependable customer service and product advice together with a constant focus on product innovation and new, technological materials suitable for hygienic, food safe surfaces. Our product range has grown over the years and together with sustainably sourced hardwoods, our ranges include HDPE500 polyethylene, eco-friendly Roweca and Apex. From butchery equipment, mini display blocks and butcher’s sundry items, to food preparation and presentation boards and accessories, as we move into this changed, post lockdown period, our whole team is here to support the industry with our British crafted product ranges for butchery and other food retail, as well as the commercial catering sector.
We don’t want any of our small independent food retail businesses to become rare breeds and hope you will join us and keep up the trend of using our high street butchers and farm shops, grocers and deli’s, supporting them to grow and thrive in the coming months. Like us, many of these businesses form part of the foundation on which the hospitality sector, crippled by the lockdown in recent months, will rebuild. We also ask each and every person to support our hospitality sector. Visit our pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels to do all we can to help them get back onto their feet and up to full strength too.