Butchers find recipe for success with cheap cuts
Neven Maguire: culinary adviser to butchers
BUTCHERS have bucked the recession to emerge as one of the most resilient sectors of our service industry.
Industry chiefs have reported that not one single trader has gone out of business in the past 12 months, as customers return to the traditional butcher to buy their meat.
Unlike almost every other sector of our beleaguered service industry, butchers are even making a comeback.
Dave Lang, project and development manager of the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland (ACBI), said its 500 members had thrived by adapting and learning new skills, selling quality produce and maintaining their unique relationship with their loyal customer base.
"It's not been easy, but I'm happy to say that butchers shops are not closing -- it's the opposite," he said. "There are 500 craft butchers and a further 300 local butcher shops in the country and not one of them has closed in the past 12 months In fact at least a dozen new ones have opened up."
However, far from being complacent, ACBI is taking innovative steps to ensure its members' future prosperity, including recruiting a celebrity to offer butchers cooking lessons to help them survive the recession.
Leading chef Neven Maguire will spearhead a new initiative to re-educate the nation's butchers on how to prepare cheap, old-fashioned recipes which they can pass on to their customers.
The move, says the ACBI, is a response to growing customer demand for cheaper cuts of meat, such as oxtail, shin beef and shoulders of lamb.
The group's chief executive, John Hickey, said traditional recipes had come back in vogue as cash-strapped customers ditched pricey prime fillets for less expensive cuts.
He said it was vital that all 500 retailers of the association were armed with the knowledge of how to prepare recession-busting meals, so they could pass on tips to their customers, many of whom forgot how to prepare old-fashioned grub during the boom.
He said: "Like all businesses, butchers need constant upskilling. More and more customers are asking how to prepare proper meals and butchers need to be able to tell them how to do it."
The initiative, which will begin this summer, will see rigorous cooking workshops taking place across the country, to which butchers and their staff will be invited.
A similar programme will be run at the ACBI's new premises at Teagasc in Ashtown, Co Dublin.
Maguire is also writing a book of traditional recipes, which will be available exclusively in butchers' shops before Christmas, in response to growing customer demand.
Celebrity chef Maguire, who owns award-winning McNean's House restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan, said: "Customers have trusted their butcher from generation to generation and rightly so because the meat can be traced and it is hung and prepared properly.
"People are very particular about where they buy meat, but they now want to know how to prepare the lesser-used cuts.
"And the attraction is obvious, because cuts such as a neck of lamb, belly of pork, lamb shanks and lamb tongue are just as tasty, but cost a fraction of the price. For example a leg of lamb might cost €35, but a shoulder of lamb retails at between €20 to €22, but it's just as good when slowly roasted with garlic."