Online Butchers In The UK - Are They Any Good?
I Would Like To Buy Meat From A Local Butcher...
...however I do not have one!
Are you fed up with shopping at supermarkets and buying pale colour chicken breasts or brown curling beef? I am! I want a good butcher. I want it local and I want it now.
Unfortunately, there are no local butchers in the area where I live. So I decided to bite the bullet and do my own research from a variety of online butchers! I hope that you can profit from my experience too as I have spent quite some time browsing and this may save you some time!
There many, many websites out there - most of them focus on high end, organic meats and this can work out to be very expensive. My monthly budget does not allow me to spend this much. However, there are a breed of butcher which is reasonable in price and better than the souless produce on display in the supermarket. It is just a big gamble to take your money and buy meat that you have not even seen, so I hope my article helps you. I have deliberately just selected the "everyday" type of butcher website, not an exclusive and rare breeds type which costs a premium.
It is hard to know exactly what to purchase when you are faced with so much choice, so I found it useful to focus at first on what the butchers offer in their "Selection Boxes". This gives you a rough idea of what sort of quantity you can get for your buck.
When I get my shopping allowance at payday, I spend around £100 on meat, and keep the remainder for buying everyday produce to go with the meat. That way, I know I have enough meat in my freezer to get us through the month until next payday. My staples tend to be chicken breasts as these are very versatile, mince in order to have spaghetti bolognase or cottage pie once a week and plenty sausages. I regard these are cheap items which can go a long way in a family of four and also provide me with no headache in what to cook for three days out of the week. Then the other days of the week can be made up with a roast dinner on Sunday, steaks or pork chops, or perhaps a pie or stir fry another day. One of the tough jobs of being a stay at home Mum is deciding what to have dinner each day! Inspiration gets tough day in day out and finding something new, tasty and interesting is sometimes hard!
Westin Gourmet (www.westingourmet.co.uk)
This was the one that caught my attention first: the name is appealling; the website is very seductive; the photography of the meats make you salivate and it reassures you with its quality by showing it has won the bronze, silver and gold "Consumer Taste Awards 2011-2012 and is also a member of "The Guild of Fine Food". I have also noticed their advert of late on several sites (including HubPages) so they are clearly making an effort with online marketing at the moment.
I read several reviews from a few bodybuilder type website forums raving about their huge chicken breasts, so I decided to give them a go.
They do a "New Customer Offer" for £39.00 (usually £69.00) which is quite reasonable and gives you lots of sausages and burgers to put in your freezer, plus also a couple of steaks which is good to try out the quality. You also get some mince, pork chops and a whole corn fed chicken, which was actually very nice quality. Here is the full breakdown:
1x 6oz Hereford Sirloin Steak
1x 6oz Aberdeen Angus Sirloin Steak
1x 1kg Packs of Steak Mince
2x 7-8oz Pork Loin Steaks
1x 1.5kg Whole Corn Fed Chicken
10x 4oz Gourmet Steak Burgers
24x Award Winning Cumberland Sausages
I ordered this, and also 20 huge chicken breasts and a large leg of pork in the Pick n' Mix Family pack for £44.15. My total order cost £74.84 as I found an online voucher code of "10GIFT" and this took 10% off. Try it - it may still work!
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of food I received for the money and it filled my freezer for the month. I felt my first encounter with an online butcher was successful and I even got my Mum to place a first time order to benefit from the good deal!
Delivery and Packaging: My first order went missing, so I assume that someone at the delivery depot had a good feast that night, but the customer service was good and they called me to advise another order would be with me instead in a few days. When it arrived, it came around 2pm, and it was well packed with gel ice packs and all the meat was cold to the touch. It is a concern when you are unsure what time your meat will be delivered; but all meat was in good, unspoiled condition. Delivery is free with orders over £75.00 (they took the order on the original price prior to discount which was useful).
Quality and Personal Feedback: The name and the seductive website did not work in its favour for me, however. As this was my first online butcher order as well, perhaps the reality of seeing the produce did not match the images presented on the website. The goods were mainly vacuum packed and looked quite unattractive, so be aware this can be the case when you order meat online. The chicken breasts were huge, and at first I was very pleased with the food stash in my freezer, however, after cooking a few, I found them to be a little veiny and was not too impressed with them. My partner however, did not mind this, so perhaps I am a little fussy. The Cumberland sausages however, were very meaty, very tasty and a huge hit. We loved them! I also tried the Wild Australian Topside joint from my Mum's order, but no matter how long it was roasted for, it remained very bloody. Perhaps this is just what "wild" Australian meat is like, but it was not to our taste. She also ordered some Lincolnshire sausages, but these were not as nice as the Cumberland ones.
Best Bits: Cumberland sausages were brilliant and tasty. Good value for money with the first time customer offer.
Low Points: Veiny chicken breasts.
Stilton Butchers (www.stiltonbutchers.co.uk)
As I felt my online butcher experience could be better, I decided to try another site that is called Stilton Butcher. In the business since 1978, they have won the "Meat Industry Awards 2011", claiming to champion over the likes of Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Allen's of Mayfair. I liked the look of the "Credit Crunch Box" which offered the following for £25.00:
4x 4-5oz Dingley Dell Pork Loin Steaks
4x 4-5oz Top Rump Beef Braising Steak
4x 4-5oz Chicken Breast (Skinless / Boneless)
4x 4-5oz Gammon Steak Half Moon
1x 450g Mince Steak
1x Lincolnshire Sausages (8s)
1x 3lb Oven Ready Chicken (Barn Reared /Grain Fed)
I ordered this plus "Credit Crunch Small Family Roaster Box" which contained a large joint of beef, lamb, turkey and pork for £29.99 and also a pack of 10 chicken breasts (£7.99). I also ordered 5 sirloin steaks for £20.99 4 rib eye steaks which were on half price special offer and so cost £11.16. My order total came to £101.03 and I had more than enough to keep my freezer happy!
When the order arrived, I was pleased with the value for money. The chicken breasts and pork chops in the Credit Crunch Box were all vacuum packed individually which was very handy as I did not have to divide this up into freezer bags. They were a lot smaller than the Westin Gourmet chicken breasts, but they were not veiny and seemed to be better quality. We did not like the sausages much though. The pork chops and gammon steaks were all really nice and we were pleased. The turkey roasting joint was delicious, and the others were all fine; no complaints. As they were all boneless joints these were very easy to cook and carve with plenty left over for sandwiches the next day.
The only real issue I had came with regards to the chicken that was sent. It looked okay from the outside, however, when I cooked it, I was dismayed and slightly revolted to find it contained brown chunks throughout. It looked like the bones had been broken and this has spread into the breast meat. When I cut into the leg also, I found another dark brown patch, so we decided not to eat it. I contacted the butcher and they were good enough to take a look at the photos I had taken, and to offer use two free chickens with our next order, but I decided to keep on trying with my search for the perfect online butcher.
Delivery and Packaging: I think the overall impression of the Stilton Butcher order was better than the Westin Gourmet one, and the order arrived around 1pm and it all the ice packs were still frozen and the meat was chilled to the touch. Delivery was free with orders over £100.
Quality and Personal Opinion: Overall I was really happy with my order, however, upon receiving damaged chicken, it just put me off from using them again. I do not hold them accountable as they cannot know what happens to each and every chicken, but it seemed like the chicken involved had not just been bruised, but beated up and bludgened to death. Perhaps I am just a little squeamish...but it was a wasted dinner as we did not eat it.
Best Bits: Good value for money - credit crunch box offers good value and the roasts were nice too. Good customer service and fast response to my problem.
Low Points: Battered chicken with brown bits throughout was off putting.
Broad Stripe Butchers (www.broadstripebutchers.co.uk)
After more googling and countless browsing, I decided to try Broad Stripe Butchers. This time I decided to order my own selection rather than purchasing a box. Not a huge amount of promotion on the site, but there are several quotes from various celebrity chefs popping up on the side.
When the order arrived, I was delighted! I was estastic, and literally jumping for joy! The food actually looked amazing within its packaging and the majority of it was not vaccum packed and unattractive as the two previous orders had been.
My first order consisted of the following:
10x 184g pack of Chicken Breasts
2x 1.4kg Whole Chickens
1x 800g Fillet Stroganoff
4x 227g Full Slice Gammon Steaks
1x 800g Hand Diced Beef
2x 680g Slightly Seasoned Meaty Sausages
2x 800g Minced Beef
2x 142g Pack of Pave Rump Steaks
6x 170g Pork Loin Steaks
3x 340g Lamb Shanks
2x 170g Pack of Sirloin Steaks
1x 500g Pack of Slightly Smoked Back Bacon
I found a discount code of BSBFACE which took 10% off the cost so all of the above cost just £77.42 which I thought was outstanding value. Everything to date that I ordered has been absolutely fine - so much so that I have placed a second order with them - and it has lasted me all month. My only critiscism is that the roasts are quite expensive to purchase, but the basic staples that I require are very reasonable.
Another feature that I found positive with Broad Stripe Butchers is that they do not charge a premium for delivery prior to 12 o'clock. This choice always presented me with a headache with other websites that I encountered as I did not wish to pay extra, but then did not wish to run the risk of the food sitting in transit until 5pm, so to have this decision removed was a good thing. My delivery arrived around 11am so I was very happy in any case.
Delivery and Packaging: Absolutely amazing...I was very happy - the food looked good and was good. The ice packs were still frozen and food cold to the touch. I also liked that a premium was not required for an early delivery. Delivery cost £7.50 for orders under £50; it then drops to £5.00 for over £50.00 and is free for orders over £75.00.
Quality and Personal Opinion: By far my favourite butcher so far. The meat was easy to divide up for the freezer due to its packaging not being vacuum packed.
Best Bits: Great value for money and packing just like you receive in the shops
Low Points: None
And so saying, my search for an online butcher has stopped...for the time being...