Well today’s the day. The Good Burghers of Griffith* are out and about looking for the Good Burgers of Griffith. It’s election day in Griffith and on the way out of the polling booth, there’s an opportunity for local schools and community groups to add an unexpected by-election windfall to their coffers in the form of fundraising BBQs. At the September 2013 Federal Election, there were whole blogs and twitter feeds dedicated to the best sausage sizzles in each electorate. When I looked at the Griffith locations, time and again Carina North Quality Meats seemed to be supplying every school and Scout group in the land. This butcher is less than 1km from my door in a revitalised and bustling set of local shops. I’ve been visiting on an irregular basis on and off over the last dozen years as it’s one of the few places where I know I can always get duck or rabbit (albeit sometime frozen) and because of their delicious Pork and Fennel Sausages.
It was time to visit and find out more so I arranged to catch up with butcher Michael James, owner of CN Quality Meats. I was interested in learning more about the impact of trends in food, entertainment and social media on the meat industry and about the shop’s involvement in the community.
Tip of The Tongue
The new millennium saw the rise and rise of reality television food programming. Though many claim not to watch these shows, they continue to be commissioned and the ratings tell a different story. This has translated to the grocery basket. Michael talks of the immediate ‘Masterchef effect’ that comes into play when requests for pork hock triple in one day, as a result of a cook off the night before. There’s also a cumulative effect as audiences are exposed to new ingredients and cooking techniques which influences the tastes and shopping habits of avid foodies. The so called ‘budget or cheap cuts’ such as lamb shanks and oxtail are popular enough these days to be sold as standard products. The trend towards food of the Southern US states has seen an increase in the popularity of brisket, short cut ribs and pork shoulder. Despite the hard work of chefs and cooking personalities to push sustainable cooking practices, offal remains offal the menu. Australians like the idea of ‘snout to tail’ eating but for the most part are squeamish about organs, crumbed or not.
Meat the Locals
75% of the shop’s customers are between 25 and 45. Busy families and busy lives mean that pre-prepared stir fries, stuffed and marinated products and 20 minute oven bake meals are the most popular items during the week. These are often purchased during the school run, whilst the kids are at sport or when customers hop off the bus after work. On the weekend, it’s a different story. BBQs remain a mainstay of weekend dining as do roasts. The weekend is also the time that home cooks can make more time consuming or complex dishes and try out different techniques and flavours. Game may be on the menu or perhaps a larger cut to slow cook.
The unusual or unique goes on the back-burner when it comes to traditional celebrations though. Ham and Turkey continue to be the most popular items in the lead up to Christmas with CNQ Meats selling 400 hams in December last year. Lamb at Easter is another certainty. This year the shop joined in the Australia Day fun by creating a Lamb, Vegemite and Cheese sausage and a Roast Lamb and Caramelised Onion sausage. ‘After Christmas, January is a very lean time for butcher shops but it does give us a chance to think about the year ahead and try some new things.’
Good Burgers for The Good Burghers*
In the 2013 election, CN Quality Meats supplied community groups with 4000 sausages for election day BBQs. Michael talks about how important it is to contribute to and be part of the community. After the crazy rush up to Christmas, the shop shuts for a few days for a well earned rest. Any meat left over from the Christmas trade is donated to local charity Mama Rene’s
for street kitchen’s to feed the homeless over the holiday period.
The CN Quality Meats team are savvy in their understanding of what their customers want and how to connect with them. I ask Michael why the shop continues to thrive in the era of globalisation and mass consumerism. ‘We can’t match the hours of the big chains’ he says, ‘We have to add value in other ways’. Service is a key as is understanding the chain of product. There’s no bulk buying from mass producers. Michael works directly with farmers who he has built a relationship with. All beef is grass fed, ensuring better animal welfare and a good eating at the table. Lamb is sourced from Tasmania as he believes this is where the best lamb comes from in Australia. The shop works with customers with food intolerances or allergies, providing advice on suitable products and keeping artificial inclusions to a minimum. A thank you note in the shop from a very happy customer underscores the connection between the team and their customers.
CN Quality Meats also has a strong online presence with specials, recipes and updates on what’s happening in the shop. This is how I originally connected with Michael, when I saw a tweet about a butchering competition in which he is captaining a team. It’s the 2014 Tri Nations Butchery Competition to be held in the UK in July. Michael previously competed for Australia in the 2011 Trans Tasman competition when Australia beat the Kiwis (as it should be).
I’ll be sharing the story of the competition and checking in with Carina North Quality Meats later in the year. In the mean while, are you doing what Michael suggests and shopping local?
Carina North Quality Meats
182 Stanley Rd
Carina Qld 4152
*regd TM 24/7 Kevin Rudd MP (retiring) & former Prime Minister (twice)