Celebrating your local butcher is what National Butchers Week is all about – and here in the Western Isles, the trade is not only still going strong but expanding and developing as island butchers strive to try something new.
Held from March 14th to 20th, 2016 is the eighth year since National Butchers Week was established in a bid by Meats Trade Journal to promote the skills of butchers throughout the UK. And with a National Butchers Week survey revealing that two in ten Britons thought tofu was a meat-based product, and three out of ten admitting they had no idea how long it takes to cook a chicken, it appears a little help figuring out what's what in the meat department is still required.
The national week therefore sees butchers everywhere showcasing not only their wares, but also the knowledge they have to offer, as well as information about getting value for money. And locally, there's plenty on offer in Stornoway and beyond, as long-established businesses trade side-by-side, each offering something a little bit different.
Cross Stores, on the Cross-Skigersta Road, in North lewis was run by Alasdair and Rona Morrison until their retirement last autumn. Given its location, it's even more of a general store than the other butchers based in Stornoway, aiming to provide locally a range of services, saving its customers the time and expense of travelling.
Their skilled butchers prepare quality fresh meat on site and specialise in black pudding and sausages – this is not the Stornoway Black Pudding with its EU-agreed recipe, but its own local Ness black pudding. They also bake pies, sausage rolls, pasties and other products in the shop, and have been expanding the range of meals which can be taken away or taken home to cook or reheat.
Under the new owners, Paddy and Johanna Furey, a lot of additional effort is being put into developing an extensive deli counter and providing a wider range of fresh vegetables and herbs to accompany the many meats and meat products available.
One of the oldest family-run establishments in Stornoway, WJ MacDonald Butchers on Francis Street has been serving quality goods to the local community since 1931. Queues are often seen stretching out the shop door – and most recently attracting attention is the butcher's new line of thick cut traditional sweet cured bacon. Previously made before, the bacon is back by popular demand with customers asking for the traditionally cured meat. As well as being available in the Stornoway shop, the sweet cured bacon is also distributed through shops in Point, Ness and Back, as well as at Loch Services Ltd on Cameron Terrace, Campbells Service Station on Cannery Road, and Engebret Ltd, Sandwick Road.
And WJ MacDonald butcher's new Beef, Spring Onion and Cheese beef burgers are another exciting new addition proving popular – available in the butcher's shop as well as Campbell Service Station and Loch Services Ltd.
Stretching over six generations, another family-run butchers in Stornoway offering customers more than just meats is Charles Macleod – or Charlie Barleys – at Ropework Park off Matheson Road. With a large range of deli products, from sauces and biscuits to sweet treats and fresh vegetables available in the shop, behind the scenes the butcher team are always busy trying something new. Awarded an Investors in Young People award in 2015, a number of the team have come through Charlie Barleys from apprentices to trained butchers, and are now using their skills to create some imaginative and interesting new combinations.
Understanding time can be of the essence in the busy modern lifestyles and what their customers often want is something quick, fresh and easy to pop straight in the oven, along with their range of pies, pasties and sausage rolls, the Charlie Barley butcher boys are offering tasty treats Beef, Bacon and Honey Melts, as well as home-made Chicken Kievs, as healthy, convenient and well portioned easy to make meals.
Established in the early 1930s, Macleod and Macleod Butchers on Church Street, Stornoway, expanded in 2015 with the opening of a second shop on Westview Terrace. Situated outside the town's centre, the new shop offers more than a wide range of food-stuffs to those living round about, with daily newspapers also available. In recent years the family run butchers have become renowned for its more exotic sausage and burger ranges which include Irn Bru sausages, as well as Pork and Black Pudding and Cracked Black Pepper with Spring Onion flavours.
And in the burger department, their Bacon and Cheese; Caramelised Onion and Black Pepper, and Hot and Spicy meat patties prove popular; as do the Macleod and Macleod Steak pies, along with the Chicken and Broccoli pies. Also offering convenience for their customers, ready-meals made with fresh healthy ingredients are available from both the Macleod and Macleod butcher shops, with a wide range of stir-fry options and straight to oven delights like Chicken breast stuffed with black pudding in a Cajun salsa sauce, topped with mozzarella making mouths water.