Alison Craig: Support your local butcher

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How many horse jokes can one country come up with? How we laughed until we stopped and thought seriously about what this whole stramash is really about. We the consumer have been misled and lied to.

So it seems the huge companies and corporations are so out of touch with what is actually in their products that they are not selling us what they say they are at all. And it’s not our food producers who are to blame.

Regulation of our Scottish farmers is extreme. For example, if you ask a Scottish farmer where a particular beast was on a particular date they can tell you. They can. That’s the point of traceability.

The Government put these controls into place years ago and our farmers complied. Can you imagine how expensive, time-consuming and paper- heavy this exercise is, but that is what has been asked to do so that is what they have done. They have done it for the greater good and to protect their product and us the consumer.

So the Government has effectively policed our domestic food production and then stood by and watched as the large supermarkets head off to buy food that is reared and slaughtered overseas, leaving our farmers effectively impotent.

We have the best produce in the world just sitting here as they shop abroad. Well, the supermarkets inevitably argue, it’s cheaper. Well of course it’s cheaper but who on earth knows what it is? And how high a cost are you prepared to pay?

When we go into a shop and see what may look like two identical burgers side by side, it is only under closer inspection we find out they are not. Burgers which contain sawdust, nostrils and nodules are sold as beefburgers right next to the real, well-bred, butchered Scottish beef. Which would you rather your family were eating?

The difference price-wise would not be as much as you might think, maybe one 99p, the other £1.10. We look at the price 99p versus £1.10, they look the same, they are labelled nearly the same, so many of us plump for the cheaper offer.

We have a government encouraging people to eat well and nutritiously, to look after themselves, and then they allow this low-grade, imported, anonymous produce to slip into the country because they were too busy policing our UK farmers to notice or care.

So what can we do? Use your local butcher. Talk to him. He knows where everything comes from. If we continue to ignore the best beef in the world, which is produced in this country, then the farmers might give up. Imagine that. If we had no choice. But we do. You do.

Good butchers and good restaurants know the provenance of all their goods. The first thing we did when we bought Howies back a year ago was walk away from the mass suppliers and adopt great local producers.

Johnny at Burnside Farm in the Borders supplies us with pheasants, partridge, roe deer. Then we have Peelham farm where we get our free-range organic pork and lamb. Red deer comes down from Glen Lyon. Lobsters from Ronnie Dale in East Lothian.

I bet that costs a fortune I hear you shout? Well, at the moment we offer that to our diners at £7.95 for a two- course lunch for £14.95 for two-course dinner. That is not going to make us rich but it’s about the principle of thing. We are busy. Our staff are busy. They get good tips. They are happy. The producers are happy, the diners are happy and so it goes on. It’s the circle of life.

So if we can do it on that scale why can’t the supermarkets? Well, they could if they chose to, but they are not in the business of doing business on any other basis than biggest margin squeezable from supplier.

So take a stand, go and introduce yourself to your local butcher, your local restaurant. They will thank you for it. You will be doing yourself and your family a huge long-term favour and setting a good example for the youngsters too.

Memories of the string bag bulging with paper-wrapped mince and sausages should be celebrated and encouraged, so cock a snook at that grey-suited man in his large office in London who dictates the prices and is so far away from the sharp end of it he wouldn’t know it if it jabbed him in the backside.

So let’s jab him where it really hurts –in the wallet.