By Leigh O’Connor. Images supplied.
From weird and wonderful customer questions to educating Aussies on popular secondary cuts, the life of a butcher is never dull.
The 60s were the heyday of the humble butcher when shopping local was proudly the norm and we would come away from the corner shop with brown paper packages of meat, neatly tied with string.
Grocery habits have well and truly changed since then – some of us don’t even get to the supermarket anymore, opting instead for home delivery and online ordering. However, Australian Beef has encouragingly noticed a resurgence of ‘new age’ butchers, with Google Trends showing a 44% increase in searches for butchers over the past 10 years.
A new wave of modern butchers is carving out a place in the industry by keeping up to date with food trends, adapting their products to suit customer needs and educating them on the art of butchery. Interacting on a social level with loyal customers also adds to the whole experience of visiting your local butcher, to put a steak on the plate for the evening meal.
Just ask Gary Hine, owner of The Naked Butcher in Mundaring, Western Australia. A butcher since the late 1980s, Gary has experienced both the highs and lows of the industry and says it’s important butchers change with the times to appeal to a wider audience.
"The best way butchers can stay relevant is to interact with their customers, not only over the counter but also via social media, to garner a better understanding of what is going to be in hot demand over the coming months,” he says.
"We are seeing a lot of younger customers, who are open to new cuts and cooking methods. A common trend for this market is the desire for nutritious options. They are educated buyers who understand the benefits of natural fats and often love great quality beef, as it ticks all the nutritional options.”
Located in the Perth Hills, The Naked Butcher embraces the ethical, humane treatment of the animals it sources and supports local growers who share this philosophy.
"We don’t stock any animal that has been grown under intensive growing practices. All of the lamb and beef we stock is 100% grass-fed, our poultry is free range and the pork we use is female, free-range, locally grown and raised on their natural diet.”
Gary believes customer service and meat knowledge are the key to butcher love, along with a strong digital presence and a website, which allows customers to shop at their own convenience.
"We get a lot of questions around the provenance of the products we sell. Customers are more educated than ever and want to know where the animals come from and how they were raised. Having an online site for The Naked Butcher allows us to bring the ease of shopping with a butcher to our customers on a platform they are familiar with.”
We asked Gary to give us his top tips for cooking the perfect steak, as many of us struggle with just how to serve a slab of meat that the knife cuts through like butter:
- Always bring your beef to room temperature by removing it from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking.
- For the best taste, season your steaks with salt and pepper and oil prior to cooking.
- Make sure to pre-heat your pan or barbeque. Get the hot plate nice and hot before placing your steaks on the grill. By using a very high heat, you will trap in the juices and create beautiful caramelisation, which will give big beefy flavour.
- For the juiciest steak, take them off the heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Once you’ve mastered these tips, try this recipe from Australian Beef for harissa steak with roasted vegetables – an ideal family dinner during the cooler months. Rump, sirloin or eye fillet works well for this dish and harissa paste is available at most supermarkets, green grocers and delicatessens.
For the roast vegetables, think butternut pumpkin, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, asparagus and broccolini; while the addition of pancetta to the roasting dish adds extra flavour.
Some of the greatest meat on earth comes from our backyard, so come on Aussies get behind your local butcher!