"I know every ounce of meat hanging in my fridge, what it is and where it’s come from”, explains Paul Dzido, who heads up Hook and Cleaver butcher in West London. Once the preserve of fine dining restaurants, a new trend has taken root through Paris and London: meet the next generation of butchers making meat a chic, luxury product in its own right, while prompting us to pause for thought before tucking into our next steak. From Alexandre Polmard in Paris to the Provenance boys in London, butchers now go to extraordinary lengths to make sure they can track meat from field to plate, priding themselves in being able to trace your steak to a specific herd on a specific farm, sourced through a trusted supplier handpicked for ethics as much as product quality.
This move from price to provenance took shape in the wake of the 2012 horse meat scandal. Leading supermarkets were exposed for sourcing cut-price meat – contaminated with horse meat – from a long and convoluted supply chain that criss-crossed Europe, while consumers looked on in horror. In research undertaken by the UK’s Which?, 49% of respondents said the horse meat incident changed their shopping habits forever. And so, the stage was set for the return of the friendly local butcher, long a pillar of the community and now back in fashion like never before.
Tom Gibson, one of the co-founders of Notting Hill’s Provenance, says this new movement is “taking big-city life back to the traditional days of the high-street, igniting community-vibes where the customer journey is based on trust and a personable experience”. French pioneer of the luxury butcher movement Hugo Desnoyer says that not enough credit has been given to trade in the past: “For 40 years, traditional trades have been considered archaic and out-dated, only a suitable profession for the uneducated.” Now, the move towards bespoke, tailor-made meat rather than “off the shelf” has brought a new respect back to the art of meat.
Provenance set up shop in 2012 on London’s famous Portobello Road, headed by a team of young enthusiasts who gave up city jobs to train as butchers and charcutiers. “Leaving The City to set up a small business is no small feat”, according to Gibson, who left his recruitment job in 2012. “It was a challenging journey at times, but the literal blood, sweat and tears have paid off from both a business owner and a consumer standpoint”.
London is one of the most innovative cities in the world and a fertile bed from which to launch a new life and develop a life-long passion into a source of income. As a city that quickly adapts to and embraces new trends, Gibson also comments that they’re far from the only horse in the provenance meat race. New tech start-up, Hubub, has created an online platform that makes shopping locally as easy as going to the supermarket, through enabling customers to source their shopping from the best local specialist shops, including Provenance, and delivered to their door in a single, simple delivery. It’s this type of innovation from pioneering culinary crusaders that makes London one of the world’s most progressive cities to live.