British butchers enjoy sales boost after horsemeat furor

Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:56pm EST
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By Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) - In one of Britain's oldest butcher's shops, staff in straw hats are rushing to cope with a surge in demand for pricey pies and sausages from customers worried about a scandal over mislabeled horsemeat and rich enough to buy peace of mind.

Founded in 1850, Lidgates in London's smart Notting Hill district retains a Dickensian atmosphere, displaying beef from grass-fed cows, organic chickens, and silver trophies won by its products.

The discovery of horsemeat in food labeled as beef has shocked the British, a nation of horse-lovers, and exposed a gap between rich shoppers who can afford top-quality meat and those forced to hunt for bargains at the other end of the market.

The current climate of economic austerity has squeezed family budgets, forcing many to choose cheap mass-produced foods containing often untraceable ingredients.

But Lidgates, where a whole beef fillet sells for more than 100 pounds ($160) and half a dozen sausages cost 6 pounds ($9), is a world away from these concerns.

"Sales on items such as minced beef, pies, sausages went up ranging 10 and 20 percent directly on day one," said Danny Lidgate, 33, the fifth generation of his family to run the shop.

The trend towards upmarket meat appears to be gathering pace elsewhere in Britain, where many people are so sentimental about horses that they find the idea of eating their meat repulsive.

According to the Q Guild, which represents high-end independent butchers, its members say sales of beefburgers and meatballs have risen by 30 per cent since the horsemeat furor started, with overall trade up by an average of 20 percent.   Continued...

A butcher prepares a shop window display at Lidgates butchers in west London February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville