WHILE the deepening scandal over horse meat used in beef products continues to impact on a number of major supermarkets, smaller firms are witnessing a surge in demand for locally-sourced food.
Butchers and farm shops across the Herald and Gazette area have seen a welcome increase in trade since the major contamination issue emerged, with Tesco and Asda among the stores caught up in the scare.
In response, the Food Standards Agency has now taken on a series of tests to identify the scope of the problem. Health experts remain concerned there may be traces of a potentially-harmful horse drug called Bute within the carcasses of animals from Romania that were used for burgers and ready meals.
There were also fears over meat catering supplies to schools, but West Sussex County Council has stated they have not been found to contain horse meat.
Paul Wickenden, of Guildbourne Meats in Worthing, said the industry had “a golden opportunity” to show buying from butchers offered quality and value.
He said: “There’s been a bit of a pick-up in business this last week and have seen a few new people here since the horse meat issue.
“They are buying more traditional steaks and we try and encourage people to eat as much natural food as possible. I believe that if something is labelled as being beef, then that’s what it should be.”
Butcher Richard Bullimore, of Knight Butchers in The Strand, Goring, said: “I think this has helped us with a few new faces coming into the shop who have been concerned what is happening with supermarkets and wanted to come back to traditional butchers where they know that their meat has not travelled the world.
“We’ve never served horse here and wouldn’t know where to start sourcing it in this country. It’s very much a French thing, though I have tried it before.
“We have full traceability of our meat right back to the names of the farmers, which gives people peace of mind.”
Alison Baird, of Baird Farm Shop in Climping, said: “It seems like consumers have actually been forgotten in what has happened with the horse meat issue – they actually have to eat what is being produced.
“We’ve been having a tough time at the moment and business has been hard. But we have been trying to offer people reassurance and been doing special offers on our beef and mince.
“We have full traceability of our meat and are accredited to the English Beef and Lamb Executive, EBLEX which governs our industry.”
Shoreham High Street butcher John Cuss added: “We’ve found people are coming back to traditional cuts of meat, and sales of our Scottish mince, which is ground on-site, have gone really well.
“It has been very encouraging with sales up about 15 per cent. The situation with supermarkets is something that had to happen, as they are trying to make money for their shareholders.”