THE BLOG

Is Having a 'Butchers' in the Window Really All That Bad?

27/02/2014 11:18 GMT | Updated 28/04/2014 10:59 BST

A butchers shop in Suffolk has removed hanging carcasses from its window display following a public letter campaign. While I empathise entirely with those who would rather not see "mutilated carcasses on display" this could be a watershed moment in the sanitising of meat marketing.

No retailer or marketer likes the thought of people being turned off their point of sale display, and less still, the actual product itself. In the pre-supermarket era, fresh food was pretty much its own point of sale marketing. In a bye-gone era (about 15-20 years ago!) you'd actually look and touch apples and oranges before you bought them. If you didn't like the look of them, you didn't buy them. It was a simple process that was efficient and provided instant customer feedback and satisfaction.

Somewhere between then and now, we allowed that system to be pulled from under us, replaced with a homogeneous sanitised process, where familiarity and convenience, became our core buying values at the expense of quality and provenance.

No product has this been more prevalent with than meat. For thousands of years we have bred and farmed animals to eat, and for hundreds of years that meat has been displayed at point of sale in carcass form. Space, time and hygiene constraints gradually eroded this practice, but the real change point was the supermarkets' united decisions on how meat is marketed.

We now buy bright red meat, packaged in plastic tubs with gas flush cellophane lids. We don't buy meat like this because it is the best method or improves flavour, the supermarket convinced us it is the best way, because it is economically advantageous to them and generally means using 'young meat' with increased shelf-life.

The unique selling point of an independent butchers in the supermarket era, has generally been product quality and provenance. The butcher shop will generally hang meat for longer, knows where it comes from and will prepare cuts to your exact requirements. Hanging meat, while also an essential process in maturing and improving flavour, accentuates this unique proposition to the customer. Shopping in a butcher's shop should be experiential, at its very best it excites the senses on a number of levels, and we should encourage butchers to be more not less creative.

Perhaps the wider issue is not if we do not like the aesthetics of a butcher's window, but have we become so conditioned as consumers that we don't want to ask ourselves the big questions of what is meat, and where does it come from, because we'd prefer not to know?