Simon Bell has been working as a butcher for most of his life. He ran a meat stall on The Blue for decades and delivered wholesale to butchers around London and out into Kent. Two years ago he took on his current shop next to the Old Bank pub in the Market and now has a permanent base from which to serve SE16 with fresh meat. I wanted to know how he went about butchering a carcass and so we met at his shop to hold the demonstration.
“…I just wish they made use of us throughout the year as well!…”
“All our lamb and pork comes from Hugh Norris at Plantation Pigs on the South Downs near Brighton; they were the first in the UK to raise all their pigs free range. Since 1987, he has made sure the animals have a great life there and so they come to us as unstressed as possible. He works closely with independent butchers like us and uses a small, approved abattoir in Kent to slaughter the animals humanely. This means when we get their quality meat, it remains tender and arrives in the best condition. We normally buy about two lambs and two pigs each week. We get our beef from Smithfield Market as cuts because of the limited space in our cold rooms.”
“…You have to butcher the meat according to the varied taste of your customers!…”
So how do you start cutting up a lamb?
“We hang our meat for up to two weeks. During this time, the flavours in the meat develop and it will cook more tenderly. We normally only cut up the carcass to supply the day’s demand; that stops it drying out and prevents any waste. I normally start by cutting below the ribcage and before the hips and legs; you can normally do this with a sharp knife. This gives me two great leg joints for roasting, which I can then vacuum-pack to keep them at their best.
But we also have to take the changing customer demand into account. The old school knows what they want and have asked for the same thing for decades. People brought up in the 1970s, 80s and 90s were all dependent on the supermarkets for their meat and seem not to know much about it. And more recently the young professionals have read more about meat and ask directly for nice cuts. You have to butcher the meat according to the varied taste of your customers!
“…their meat comes from real farm animals rather than in polystyrene trays…”
Having the shop, we’ve moved into a wide range of other goods such as pies, cheese, olives and eggs. And of course the season makes a big difference to the demand. Over the summer, we had fewer customers but it always picks up as Christmas appears over the horizon. Customers are so thankful to have an independent butcher for the festive season. I just wish they made use of us throughout the year as well!”
“…This means when we get their quality meat, it remains tender and arrives in the best condition…”
What else do you do with your meat?
“Inevitably there is always a little waste when butchering meat. Any left overs we use to make our own Mediterranean sausages that are gluten free and just delicious. We of course have the pig’s head that I use with the school parties when they come in to learn about meat and butchering; they love to pose with the pig’s head and so get reminded that their meat comes from real farm animals rather than in polystyrene trays. We are very keen to pass on our knowledge of the craft of butchery and to help everyone appreciate where their food comes from.”
Simon Bell can be reached E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bell and Sons of Bermondsey is located at 13a Market Place SE16 3UQ
T: 020 7394 1125 – free delivery subject to a minimum order
Facebook: bellandsonsbutchers Twitter: @bellandsons
Open Monday-Saturday 08:00-16:30 Closed on Sunday