British butchers see sales boost as plant-based alternatives shunned at the tills

Independent butchers are serving more customers and selling more meat, according to the findings of the Big British Butchers Survey 2023.

Survey shows Britain backing its butchers, as plant-based sales stagnate


Independent butchers are serving more customers and selling more meat, according to the findings of the Big British Butchers Survey 2023.

A survey, carried out by the National Craft Butchers (NCB) during March and April, has identified a resurgence in the sale of traditional meat products during 2022, at a time when consumers are widely reported to be moving away from ultra-processed meat-free alternatives.

Against a backdrop of plant-based products being withdrawn from supermarket shelves and a significant drop in sales during Veganuary, the majority of independent butchers surveyed reported an increase in spend among their customers during 2022, with 57% achieving a higher average transaction value.

This trend emerged alongside a similar upward curve in the size of butchers’ customer bases, as 55% claimed to have witnessed an increase in the number of customers served each week. In line with these findings, 56% of independent butchers indicated a higher turnover in 2022 than 2021, pointing to a steady revival of one of the cornerstones of the struggling UK high street.

As consumers continue to take a greater interest in where their food comes from, 83% of butchers believed that their customers valued local produce and 88% prioritised local produce in their counters. The majority of respondents estimated their average food mile at under 25 miles, in contrast to the substantial food miles associated with most supermarket products.

While underlining many positives for independent butchers, the Big British Butchers Survey has once again shone a spotlight on the challenges facing this embattled industry. 20% have changed their business hours in the past 12 months, with 38% citing rising energy costs and 22% pointing to staffing issues. Age also appears to represent a sizeable threat to the future of independent butchery in the UK, as 50% of surveyed business owners were aged 56 or above and 26% plan to retire in the next five years.

Eleanor O’Brien, managing director of National Craft Butchers, commented: “Following some tough years for independent retailers, we’re delighted to be seeing evidence of more customers supporting their local butchers.

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to put pressure on family finances and many begin to move away from nutrient-poor plant-based products, we believe people are turning to their local butcher for a source of high quality protein that they can trust.

The wave of hype around plant-based products’ green credentials has taken no account of nutrition or impact on human health, which has allowed a highly complex cocktail of chemicals to enter our diets in the form of ultra-processed foods. Our survey’s findings, alongside recent research showing millions of households moving away from meat alternative products, would appear to indicate a shift back towards locally sourced and balanced diets.”