You can still find them, in the suburbs of our cities and in the main streets of our small towns. The bell rings as you walk in. And there’s invariably a character behind the counter, to talk about what’s best on offer today and to help with that preferred cut.
Yes, you’re in one of New Zealand’s independent butcher shops. You’re in a terrific place to purchase fresh meat, poultry and small-goods for a meal or two…..
A history of need
Here in New Zealand, there’s a long history of butcher shops. It’s a history built from need, the need for meat. From the mid 1800s, butchers opened shops in towns and abattoirs were established on the edges of towns around New Zealand.
Only freezing works could afford refrigeration. So butcher shops relied on quick stock turnover. Carcasses arrived from the freezing works and were often hung under the shop’s verandah, in the breeze and to advertise the produce on offer.
And that’s what continues. Stand outside a butcher shop, peer in the window and see the display of what’s best on offer today. Better yet, step inside and have a chat.
Visiting the butcher’s shop
The bell (often) rings as you step in, and the aroma (usually) greets you. We’re told that shop floors used to be spread with sawdust, to soak up blood and catch bits of fat. Then the sawdust was raked out at the end of each day, and changed once a week. None of that now.
Back in the day, butchers typically wore white and blue horizontal-striped aprons from the waist down. They made their own small-goods – sausages, saveloys and luncheon sausage. And that continues in many places today.
It was a daily shop for meat, in the days before home fridges and freezers, There might be a meat safe or ice chest at home, but an ice chest needed regular ice delivery. Meat was wrapped in brown paper “butchers’ wrap”, and tied with string. We do like that butchers’ wrap still - but it’s usually tape rather than string.
Change comes, of course
Fifty years ago, we’ve read, there were more than 5,000 butcher shops in New Zealand. (One of those employed a FoodPath NZ grandfather….) Then the growth of supermarkets, and greater ownership of home freezers, meant the decline of many butcher shops. It was just too hard to compete with the “one stop” supermarkets. Now the estimate is only around 500 independent butcher shops in New Zealand.
We’ve been to quite a few of them…..They’re the kind of place to find out about where your food comes from, and get tremendous ideas on what to do with that food, and support people who bring that food to you. That’s pretty special.
Our big thanks
At The FoodPath NZ, we map New Zealand’s food treasures. We find places like the good independent butcher shops in the suburbs of our cities and in the main streets of our small towns.
And we shout out and thank people along the way who make a big effort to grow, raise and make lovely and real New Zealand food. Because they work super hard doing something pretty special, we think more people should know about them.
New Zealand’s independent butchers are some of those people. So here’s our big thank you to New Zealand’s independent butchers. It’s always a joy to find you, to have a chat, and to take home something just right for dinner. So, for some simple ideas with those butchery offerings, click here.
And for more…
For more on where to find some of the wonderful New Zealand independent butchers, explore our North Island Food Travel Guide app - click here. In addition to butcher shops, you’ll find delightful cafes, artisan producers, farmers markets, specialty grocers, and more…