Last year an EU-wide report highlighted the dangers of skills shortages potentially contributing to a lost generation of young people, with a third of employers surveyed citing a lack of skills as a cause of business problems.
Fast-forward to March 2015 and National Butchers Week – this week to be precise – and these thoughts have been echoed again in a report commissioned by EBLEX examining the role and future of the independent butchers’ sector.
It revealed that, while the industry is in a prime position to capitalise on the nation’s new-found love of all things culinary and value in what we eat, clear concerns remain over the lack of young people becoming butchers to sustain the industry’s growth. One respondent even suggested that the due to the lack of an attractive training programme the industry ‘has lost a generation’.
Figures in the report – compiled from around 300 surveys of independent butchers and several in-depth interviews – are clear. There were 15,000 butchers in the UK in 1990 and there are around 6,000 now – a fall of 60 per cent in 25 years. 90 per cent of respondents said they found it difficult to recruit trained butchers, a clear indication of an issue that needs to be addressed.
Why is the role of the independent butcher so important? An expert knowledge of different cuts of meat and how best to cook them is a key part of the repertoire of a successful butcher. Not only does it add value by promoting fuller use of the carcase, but it gives the consumer greater confidence to cook dishes that have perhaps become less fashionable. In essence, a win, win for all parties concerned.
EBLEX plays a pivotal role in this, with cuts development work to help maximise full carcase utilisation to the benefit of, not only the butcher, but the entire supply chain. The independent sector can continue to flourish, supported by programmes like EBLEX’s Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for beef and lamb. This continues to highlight the importance of traceability and provenance, which independent butchers are ideally placed to maximise the current market potential. We are also currently developing a meat education programme to tackle declines in meat education across the whole supply chain. It will equip anyone who works with meat with the right tools to do their job with a comprehensive understanding of the product.
There is plenty to be positive about, with consumers becoming more attuned to provenance and traceability. EBLEX will continue to work with the industry to help ensure independent butchers and farm shops maximise these current opportunities. What is clear, though, is that, more youngsters need to be attracted to what is a highly rewarding career. Only by addressing this will the industry be put in the strongest possible position to build on the current platform and thrive longer term.
The report is available in the Corporate Publications section of the website.
Further information about the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for beef and lamb and other resources for butchers can be found on the EBLEX trade website.