[Oliver Price | News Manager]
Bob’s Family Butchers, owned by Hatfield resident Mark Burley, has been placed on the finalists list of the Hertfordshire Food & Drink Awards 2016 for the Best Independent Butcher category.
The winners of the competition will be announced in June.
Trident Media caught up with Mark for an interview about being a butcher, life in Hatfield, and the competition.
TM: Why did you become a butcher?
MB: We bought the shop four and a half years ago and I’d always been in and around that shop since I was about 12, but had a career doing something completely different, but I got bored and the shop was available, so I bought it [laughs]… which is basically the truth!
TM: How did you learn butchering skills when you bought the shop?
MB: When we bought the shop the previous owner stayed on for a month, full time, and trained me in the aspects of butchery that I didn’t know… which was a lot. So it was a big crash course on learning how to break up a lot of carcasses. Yeah, so four weeks intensive training; still learning now and making up new things as we go along.
TM: So, you enjoy making up recipes and stuff like that?
MB: Yeah, yeah. Creating new things for people to eat really is where we come into it; we create different stuff for barbecues, and we are hugely into barbecue supplies. Creating different sausage recipes, we have over 50 different sausage recipes at the moment; different types of burgers; and different stuff that’s ready to cook. So I’ve done all the creating and the prep, and all you’ve gotta do is stick it in the oven for half an hour.
TM: So, what’s this award you’ve been entered in?
MB: It’s the Hertfordshire food and drink awards, and we’re up for Best Independent Butcher, so there’s eight other butchers up for that one. It’s the first time we’ve entered this year; in previous years we’ve entered into Welwyn Hatfield Best Independent Retailer awards, which we came second in the first year, and we won it last year. So this year this is a bit of a bigger scale for us; the whole of Hertfordshire. So whether you come first second or third, you’re invited to a black tie event. It’s just nice to be an award winning butcher [laughs].
TM: What makes you stand out from the other butchers who’ve been nominated?
MB: It’s a tough one actually, because we’re one of the youngest butchers amongst the other eight. Some of those are third generation shops so they’ve been around close to 100 years. A lot of butcher shops are very similar, but they stand out against supermarkets. Other butcher shops aren’t really our competition; it’s supermarkets and educating people that what you get in a supermarket isn’t a correctly priced, good product.
Any butcher shop will be able to compete with a supermarket. Especially in Hatfield, I have to compete with one, two, three, four supermarkets, effectively. We compete with them on price… and quality goes without saying. Our handled care of the meat… abattoir to the shop, there’s nothing else in between. No preservatives or middle men. It’s only things where it’s processed… like burgers or sausages where there’ll be a preservative added. All the other meats, there’s nothing pumped… like supermarkets, they inject it preservatives and they inject it with water. Our bacon is high quality, and we do our own dry curing.
We supply the EleHouse with their handmade burgers, their mince for the lasagne and chilli they make.
They did sausages for the first time with their Super Bowl event – we supplied that and it went down really well, so they’re looking to do special one-offs. We’ve offered to do them an EleHouse sausage so students could actually recommend flavours and recipes, and out of the hundreds of different flavours asked for we’d pick some that are achievable, and actually make three of them and then have a student vote on which one becomes the EleHouse sausage.
TM: That’s quite a good idea, like the Walkers crisps competition.
MB: Exactly. So far they’ve yet to take it up, so a bit of student pressure would maybe help.
TM: What would you say is the best part about being a butcher in Hatfield?
MB: Meeting a very diverse culture of people. Hatfield has become a very diverse population. I’ve lived in Hatfield all my life so I’ve seen it through really really good times, and I’ve seen it through some of its terrible times.
Students come into us, we sell a lot of stuff to students, because they realise that we’re cheaper than going to Asda.
TM: And tastier!
MB: Tastier, and also you can buy what you wanna buy. You haven’t got to buy a packet of sausages, you can buy one sausage. I always joke with them [students], ‘I can sell you any sausage but I won’t do half’.
MB: Some of them do look at me a bit blankly but they do actually realise it’s a joke and they get it. But I did have one person ask the other day for 30p’s worth of sausages.
TM: 30p’s worth of sausages?
MB: I said, ‘that’s the first time I’ve been asked for half a sausage.’ [Laughs] I explained to her that you can’t have 30p’s worth of sausages.
TM: You buy them in integers!
MB: Yeah, one sausage is about 50p.
Mark went on to talk about where the meat he sells comes from.
MB: The majority of the meat we sell is English, not British… there’s a big difference, and it’s local.
Our pork is all free range. I have ethics like, if you’re gonna’ eat an animal, there’s no reason why that animal has to suffer at any point in its life. It can eat well and live a good life and it will be better.
TM: It makes the food taste nicer?
MB: Exactly, if they’re enjoying life it promotes tenderness and promotes flavour within the carcass.
TM: It’s good that they have a good life, especially if it tastes nicer!
MB: It’s just the food chain, it’s the way nature is. You get people come in and say, ‘It’s hard, it’s horrible,’ and this that and the other, but we’re born with teeth for a reason; we have these incisors at the front of our mouths and they’re not for carrot crunching!
TM: You do sell carrots too, though?
MB: Well yeah… [Laughs] they’re for the stews.
If you want to shop at Bob’s Family Butchers for their high-quality, low-cost meat (and also potatoes), they are located at the High View shops (near The Harrier pub and the OneStop). Where do you buy meat? Have you considered going to a butcher’s shop? Tweet us @TridentMediaUK
Images: Bob’s Family Butchers