Butcher specialising in native, rare breed meat opens on Suffolk high street
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
The lockdown months have been pretty lonely for a lot of people. Not being able to see family, friends, even colleagues face to face.
Us humans crave contact, so those (masked, sanitised) visits to the shops became an even more vital part of our world. Shop keepers and service folk, in many cases, were the only friendly faces that greeted many of us during those most dark times.
With automaton, even unmanned shops, popping up from the likes of Amazon and apparently ‘destined’ to be our future, it’s refreshing to hear that there’s an upward trend in butchers and fishmongers popping up and thriving on our high streets.
A ‘just walk out’ shop cannot give you cooking tips, offer a hand with your bags, ask if you’re OK, enquire about the family.
Someone who loves building relationships with his customers, getting to know them, and (in his own inimitable, cheeky way) giving a bit of friendly banter, is David (known as Dave) Innes.
A butcher since the age of 16, he recently took over what was The Jolly Meat Company on Hadleigh’s High Street, as Innes Family Butchers, where, alongside super-friendly, welcoming service, he champions free-range, very locally sourced, rare breed meats. Having worked at Jimmy’s Farm, and for the Ginger Pig, Dave knows only too well the importance of sourcing ethically produced meat – not only for the welfare of the animals, but for the flavour.
“You can taste the difference,” he says. “Absolutely. Education is the key. As soon as we can educate people there’s a different flavour profile when animals are properly looked after, the better really.”
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Dave has made multiple changes to the shop since taking on the premises.
“We’ve fully renovated it, retiled it and taken it up from a three start to five star hygiene rating. Plus we’ve changed some of our suppliers to make sure it’s all fully rare breed. Everything is Suffolk-based or from nearby. So beef is from Lavenham, Eye and Diss. Chickens come from Stonham Aspall or from Mersea. It’s all native rare breeds. I won’t compromise on quality. The whole ethos of this business is to get people to eat better meat.”
In addition to changes in suppliers, Dave has stocked the shelves to bursting with local and gourmet produce (from fancy Spanish crisps, to local eggs and honey, Rafi’s spice packs, and locally made brownies and flapjacks), and has created more meal solutions.
“We’ve got kievs, we’re making our own ham, there’s our world famous (only to me) sausage rolls. Then there’s stuffed chicken breasts, kung pao chicken, beef in black bean sauce. There world’s your oyster.”
Sausages are made in-house, with Dave saying his ‘repertoire’ is so extensive even he doesn’t know how many flavours they have...but they include pork and black pudding, Marmite and Cheddar, pork with lemon, fennel and parsley, smoky maple and chilli, and Bourbon infused.
And now’s the season for game, with the butcher taking the guess work out for customers. “All our game is oven ready – so it’s easy to cook. We want to help customers choose something other than the standard chicken breasts. If we can prepare things in the shop as far as possible, maybe they’ll be encouraged to try something new.”
Game coming in now ranges from pheasant and partridge, to mallard duck, venison, rabbit and pigeon breasts.
If you’re, rightly, thinking ahead for Christmas, Innes Family Butchers has a fantastic value Rudolph Hamper. Priced at £149.99, it includes a 12lb turkey or 4.5lb rolled sirloin of beef, 3lb brisket or rolled loin of pork, plus a 3lb smoked gammon, 16 chipolatas, eight traditional sausages, 1lb of sausagemeat, 1lb of smoked streaky bacon, and two tubes of sage and onion stuffing.
Or Dave can order in large chickens, guinea fowl – whatever you fancy for the festive table. There are just a few turkeys and geese left, sourced from Luke at Hog & Hen in mid-Suffolk, all reared free-range on a natural diet for what he says is a “true traditional” taste.
Looking ahead, there are big plans for the shop. As well as expanding supplies to other businesses (Dave already serves Hadleigh’s Jet Lounge, Huffers, Cobblers and Flying Guardsman, as well as The Lion Brasserie in East Bergholt), Innes Family Butchers will soon have a website, hopefully with the ability to deliver high quality Suffolk meat nationwide.
“And we’re looking to enter some awards. To really shout about what we do here. To put Suffolk meat on the map.”