Butchers, both at wholesale and retail level, are working closer with farmers, chefs, and their own customers than ever before in order to get the right products to the right people. As the consumers’ knowledge about food has grown, so has the demand for high quality and local product. Proof of this trend can be seen in a recent growth in the number of butcher shops in Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island, as well as restaurants that cater specifically to customers wanting local product.
Fifteen years ago, I worked as an apprentice butcher for an independent grocer in interior BC who, like most grocery stores in the province, sourced as many local fruits and vegetables during the harvest season as possible to meet their customers’ needs, yet rarely brought in local beef. The prices for commodity beef (beef which has been implanted with growth hormones and/or had antibiotics) were just too low for local beef producers to go up against. However, the demand has grown for local product, and consumers have adjusted their budgets to reflect more input towards their local economy and they understand the benefits of buying local. This trend has enabled the small retailers to begin to work with local farmers and keep the counters stocked to satisfy the needs of those looking for home-grown proteins.
This shift in consumer habits has been key for meat cutters and butchers who want to ply their trade the old way and work with local carcass meats. More than ever before, Two Rivers has an increased demand from both Chefs and retail meat cutters to teach them how to process carcass animals, and in turn we get to show them the importance of working with local producers and their high quality product. This is the same for many of our primary suppliers as well as butcher shops and restaurants we work with.
The revival of home-cookery and renewed interest in and need for the trade of craft-butchery have also helped to bolster the growth and distribution of local products. Celebrity chefs who are able to reach millions, have stressed the importance of buying local and supporting local farmers and butchers, eating and cooking high quality meats, and have helped to reveal to the public the benefits of eating naturally raised animals. All of these factors have come together to bring this age-old tradition of simple, local food to the forefront of basic necessity in a fast-paced modern world.
Despite rising livestock prices and the battle for purveyors of local meats to find the balance between quality, affordability, and profit, this is truly a golden age for the farmer, the butcher, the restaurateur, and most importantly, the folks who sit down at the table with friends and family to enjoy a meal that is raised not far from their doorstep.
Written by: Ray Bucknell, Head Butcher at Two Rivers Meats