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Beef has taken a battering but west Cornwall's butchers are reaping the benefits as people look for meat they can trust

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

  • Beefy – Jim Champion, one of the butchers at Ian Lentern's in Penzance. Buy this picture: www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/buyaphoto

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BUTCHERS in west Cornwall say they are seeing an influx of people through their doors looking for meat that they can be guaranteed is what it says it is.

People nationwide are being urged to buy local produce if they want to be 100 per cent sure they aren't eating horse and even donkey as the revelations about what's in our food continue.

George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth, who sits on the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, and whose family own Trevaskis Farm near Hayle, said: "If people want to know for sure where their beef or pork comes from, their best bet is to support their local butcher, who will know where their meat is sourced."

The National Farmers' Union has said people should look to 100 per cent British beef produce for confidence.

The evidence is that people have heeded the call and headed off down their local butchers, farmers' market or farm shop as the scandal continues to erode consumer confidence in supermarkets.

Pete Davies, head butcher at Trevaskis, said: "There definitely has been an impact, we are selling more mince and other cuts of beef. Consumer confidence is what people want."

He says the difference – the fact that British beef is so heavily regulated and so traceable – has been what makes it so expensive compared with imported beef, but is now what is making people turn to it.

He said: "This is just the tip of the iceberg. We've been banging on about this for years. People should shop local. We are tied by the regulations whereas ready meals don't seem to be.

"The big food producers are getting away with absolute murder. The supermarkets beat the prices down so much and the price of beef has been going up – 25 to 30 per cent in the past 18 months – so they had to find a substitute.

"Those big corporations can say what they want and not expect to be the scapegoat when it goes wrong."

Trevaskis rears its own livestock as well as buying in Devon beef. The farm also runs an education scheme to help children understand why local is better. Mr Davies says the current scandal has helped the industry and helped British beef producers. But he fears it may not be a lasting change.

He said: "Without a doubt this is definitely a good thing. It's good it has lifted the lid on a whole can of worms. My main concern is that the public have a very short memory."

Ian Lentern, whose family butchers have served meat to the people of Penzance for generations, agrees that the problems that have recently come to light are not new ones – and that the current move towards good British beef may not last.

He said: "For several years unscrupulous people have been doctoring and supplying what they weren't supposed to, aided and abetted by the fact that the supermarkets are screwing producers into the ground.

"I've always loved this job, it's been my life, and to think people's view of meat has been affected by this is very saddening. I can't criticise people who buy ready meals but it's pretty obvious to me, when it comes to burgers, when they are so cheap there's something wrong.

"I believe what will happen, and I hope sincerely it's not the case, but it will be a knee-jerk reaction. It will blow over and we will all go back to normal and back to buying off the supermarket shelf, although I do think this has shaken the supermarkets.

"In 1975 there were 11 butchers in Penzance, excluding Heamoor and Newlyn. This has not happened because people don't eat meat, it's because the supermarkets have taken the market and instead of people cooking from scratch they are buying ready meals.

"People don't want to spend as much time preparing food as they used to. I don't think this will change.

"I'd like to think people will come to my shop and try new things and like them but we can't compete with the supermarkets. We can compete on price, and beat them every time on quality, but we can't compete with them on parking."

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  • twofeetofsnow  |  February 22 2013, 12:22PM

    Supermarket chains have finally shown themselves up as the don't care businesses, never mind what is in it as long as it sells. Thankfully we still have quality local shops where good food can still be bought. I had a lovely steak from Lenterns' on Wednesday and will continue to support local shops to keep Penzance alive. We have too many supermarkets here already and Sainsbury's will just add to the decline of a once proud market town.