BUTCHERS in the Henley area say they are getting more business as a result of the horse meat scandal.
Some say they have seen a 20 per cent rise in sales since last month when processed meat products sold by Asda and Tesco, among others, were found to contain horse DNA.
Ian Blandford, proprietor of Gabriel Machin in Market Place, Henley, said there were up to 50 new faces in his shop last weekend.
Their purchases ranged across all of the shop’s produce, from fresh cuts to burgers, mince and sausages.
He said: “I think we’ve probably seen 15 to 20 per cent more customers.We’ve had people coming in who are aware of what’s going on and are very upset that they’ve been conned.
“For me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think we’re going to find out other things about fish and all sorts.
“There’s no excuse — the technology is there to test for this sort of thing. To label something as ‘beef’ when it’s horse is just so wrong.
“If you ordered a pint of lager in a pub and were served cider instead, you’d want to know what was going on. I think people are realising that local butchers are full of knowledge and can help them get the best out of what they buy.”
Tom Orpwood, who works at Gary Smith butchers in High Street, Benson, said: “People are more concerned about what they’re eating.We’ve seen maybe a dozen new faces in the past month or so.
“For most people, supermarket shopping is a force of habit. It takes self-discipline to make the extra trip to the butcher’s.
“People can get intimidated by our labels, which quote prices by the kilo, but our prices are usually the same as the supermarkets, if not cheaper.”
Kevin Page, of Calnan Brothers in High Street, Watlington, was cautious about the surge in trade.
He said: “We’ve seen a few more people through the door but I don’t know how long it will last.
“People get angry about this sort of thing and say they’ll never shop at a supermarket again but it’s easy for them to drift back into old habits out of convenience.
“If you do a good job as a high street butcher you’ll do okay but I just hope this has made people sit up and take notice.”
Mr Page blamed the crisis on a culture of cost-cutting in the food industry.
He said: “What the suppliers have done is obviously wrong but the supermarkets have a lot to answer for.
“They have to be held responsible for trying to force producers into making things as cheap as possible.
“There’s also a lot of pressure from local authorities and health trusts to provide school and hospital meals at the lowest price.”
Martin Howarth, who owns Whitings in Coldicott Street, Caversham, said: “As a small business, we’d have been shut down if it was us but they’re not going to shut Tesco down, are they?
“We buy everything straight from the abattoir and butcher it ourselves, so anything that goes wrong falls on my shoulders. I can’t pass the buck on to someone else.” He said he had seen about 20 per cent more customers and there had been a lot of talk about the crisis, even jokes, in the shop.
Nick Jennings, director of Jennings in Church Street, Caversham, said Reading Borough Council health inspectors visited on Monday to see how the store traced its meat.
He said: “When you test a product for DNA, you have to test for specific animals. If you look for horse, pig, cow or sheep that’s four separate tests. That has cost implications and the cost factor is what drives most of the big supermarkets.
“Every product is taken down to a price, not up to a specification. It’s all about how much they can get it on the shelves for and that’s the problem.”
According to a survey carried out by Consumer Intelligence, more than 60 per cent of Britons said they would now buy from a local butcher.
A fifth said they would buy less meat and a quarter said they would not buy any that had been processed.