In the midst of the coronavirus crisis 2020, many of the South West’s food and drink producers have been forced to reinvent their offering in order to survive into the future. One such business which has gone to great lengths to keep its doors open is The Meat Men, owned and run by Somerset-based master butchers, Scott Cartwright and Edward Davies.
Reunited after years spent globetrotting and working on individual enterprises, the friends combined their aspirations, experiences and skills to establish their joint venture in November 2018. Before the coronavirus outbreak, fresh meat sales only contributed to half of the business, with the main generator of income being their ‘Somerset Steakhouse’ catering stand, a regular at summer shows and events such as the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Devon County Show, Royal Bath & West Show, Mid Devon Show and Somerset Cricket Club fixtures.
With the country in lockdown and bookings diary emptying fast due to cancellations, the duo decided that this was the perfect opportunity to diversify and grow their business by launching a free local home delivery service – keeping customers safe and
removing the need to venture out to the supermarket. Scott, 29, whose career in the meat trade began aged 15, washing up after school and on Saturdays in the back of a busy family-run butchers shop in Minehead, says: “Within the first two weeks, our service had been described by some customers as “lifesaving”.
“Due to our safe delivery methods and practice, along with contactless card payment on the door, our orders doubled in the first two weeks and have increased by 30% each week thereafter.
“Having no shop at this time, the butchery
side of the business is made up predominantly from online sales through our Facebook page.”
From that first washing job, Scott’s passion for the industry was sparked and, over the next seven years, he went on to travel and work across four countries – building his skills and knowledge in over 30 butchers shops, abattoirs and factories. Beef and lamb is sourced from livestock auctions at Sedgemoor Market and Exeter Livestock Centre largely by Edward, 28, whose natural eye for a quality carcase stems from spending his early teens working during the school holidays at his uncle’s farm and abattoir in Taunton, as well as successfully showing his own cattle and judging a number of stock and carcase competitions from the age of 21. He explains: “We have over 230 individual cuts and products, from pork chops and mutton chops to foie gras and A5-grade Wagyu beef.
“However, during the COVID-19 crisis, some of these products are unfortunately unavailable at the moment.
“We have reduced our product list considerably during these troubling times to keep our flow of stock manageable, but most importantly to keep our customers satisfied.”
“We source our beef and lamb from the Sedgemoor and Exeter markets. All of our other produce is sourced directly from farms and well-established wholesalers throughout the South West. More specialised products are sourced from other suppliers throughout the country.”
As well as carrying out local home deliveries themselves, Scott and Edward also offer a nationwide mail order service, with previous happy customers located as far west as Hayle in Cornwall, and as far north as Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland. Edward adds: “All of our products are carefully packed in a polystyrene box with dry ice, and once collected by our courier are with the customer within 24 hours.” Despite the challenges brought by the lockdown, the pair are optimistic that – with the changes they have already made – their business will be strong enough to weather the storm, which they are quick to admit is largely in part due to their “loyal and supportive customers”, who are growing in numbers by the week.
Scott adds: “We hope that through our pricing style of a fixed price, which is how the supermarkets will market their meat, rather than us selling the traditional butchers shop way in pence per kg, this has made our customers realise that they are getting a product which is equally affordable, locally sourced and far superior, delivered free of charge.”
Written by Athwenna Irons for the Western Morning News