Butchers reassure shoppers

By Rhonda Dredge

With so many factors working against the meat trade, it was a miracle that butchers at the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) were still able to crack a smile on the first day of the new lockdown shopping. 

Steven Saro, of Alec Watson & Son Butchers, said they had plenty of cuts to sell from abattoirs not affected by the virus. 

The company sources its meat from the regular places in Victoria and South Australia.

Their glass cabinets were testimony to supply, with a good range of regular cuts, including lamb shoulder at $17 a kilogram, a low-salt corned beef and pork marinated for the barbie.

“There is no supply issue,” Steven said. “That is merely confronting the bigger corporate supermarkets.”

While supply was secure, the shoppers weren’t out and about as usual at lunch time and custom had dropped significantly.

“Being the first day of lockdown we’re not even sure,” Steven said, but he estimated a reduction of about 50 per cent. “We’re being optimistic.”

The big issue facing all stallholders at the market is the new lockdown rule that limits shopping to within a five-kilometre radius. That means that regulars to the market will have to shop closer to home.

Steven said that the demographic of the CBD was working against them. 

“We have a lot of apartments near here, one bedroom without a kitchen,” he said. “It’s a thing in the middle of the city.”

But those customers who live close enough to shop for essentials will have the chance to get to know the range of products a bit better, he conceded. “We’re not so busy.”

Hunter Pork is their specialty, great for the barbie, “to be served up with steamed rice and Kewpie mayonnaise.”

He and other staff were dealing with the new conditions in a relaxed and friendly manner, not blaming the restrictions nor customers.

This is the human side of small business, the cooking tips and the banter that people in lockdown have grown to love. 

Steven will tell you about his wife and warn you against buying too cheap. “You can’t get something for nothing,” he said.

“We were lucky that our abattoirs were not hit by the virus.” He said that any shortages would be swiftly rectified. 

“I’ll be guessing that they will truck further out. They will go to an abattoir not affected.  There’ll be some issue but the industry won’t grind to a halt.” •

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