Butchers losing sleep, claims supply is being prioritised for supermarkets

Butchers are losing sleep over limited meat supply and claim supermarkets are being prioritised in lockdown over their small businesses.

In alert level 4 butchers are not allowed to open their shops to the public, but are allowed to do online contactless deliveries.

Meanwhile supermarkets are “scrambling” to keep their shelves stocked and their doors open as they face an 80 per cent increase in business since the start of the national Covid-19 lockdown.

This while many staff have been forced into isolation due to the pandemic.

And the head of one of New Zealand’s major supermarket companies supports butchers – and other food supply businesses – opening during level 4 restrictions if there is a firm safety strategy in place.

Cameron Harrison Butchery & Delicatessen has pumped out about 370 orders in Wellington since lockdown began, with another 300 to go this week.

Owner Rob Cameron told the Herald his small business of three shops has learnt to adapt in Covid-19.

But this morning, half of his order from a chicken company didn’t turn up.

“That’s the part where you actually lose sleep because that’s the part where you feel ‘oh no I’m going to let down 35 customers tomorrow’.

“The harsh reality of it all is that the majority rule. The big guys seem to get their way because they spend more money.”

After last year’s nationwide lockdown Cameron put his Kelburn shop on the chopping block to shore up his business.

He lost staff to a supermarket, faced confusion over whether he could open in alert level 4, and ended up closing the store.

Since then, the remaining stores have put a greater focus on retail and customers actually coming through the door, he said.

“We didn’t muck around this time there was only one day that we were down after lockdown was announced and then it was all hands on deck.”

In Levin, Paul’s Meat Centre owner Paul Douglas said he was also having problems with supply.

“I rang up to order a side of beef today, granted I was a little bit late, but if I was New World, Pak’nSave or Countdown they wouldn’t have said no.

“I can’t get chickens, nobody will supply me fresh chicken. It’s a hassle.”

Douglas said his customers included the elderly, who he was currently supplying through delivery services.

He got the impression private individual butchers were not a priority for suppliers.

“We’re probably a pain in their bum because a few little butchers falling over and they get burnt for a few thousand dollars I suppose.

“It’s just a frustrating time in the year, but it’s nobody’s fault.”

Island Bay Butchery owner Krissy Mackintosh told Newstalk ZB’s Nick Mills this morning her business could not meet demand under alert level 4 restrictions.

“We’re doing deliveries and it’s not easy- we can’t reach the amount of people we could get in a day, there’s no way.

“Last year we went around at night time knocking on doors – that was a bit ridiculous. You just can’t meet the need.”

Mackintosh said butchers’ shops should be allowed to open under alert level 4.

She said in a supermarket many customers touched the packets of meat compared to a butcher’s shop where only the butcher handled the meat.

“We’ve got all the things in place- the sanitising, the social distancing, staff wear masks and gloves, the eftpos machine. What the heck is the difference?”


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