Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Smithfield Wholesale Meat Market

A couple of weeks ago some friends were planning a trip to Smithfield Market and I asked to go along too.
Smithfield is the central wholesale meat market in London. I have known about it for ages, but never been so this was a great opportunity to go and see it with people who know about it.
We arrived about 3am and, contrary to what I thought, you dont need any specific credentials to shop there. You can just walk in, browse and buy. There is a central avenue through the market with butchers shops continuously down each side.
There is a wide selection of all sorts of different meats and poultry. Wider choice than you would get at your local supermarket and better pricing too (this is wholesale, after all). Be warned though that the shops here are aimed at the professional market so some of the cuts of meat or packages are big. Dont get carried away and buy more than you can fit in your freezer and when you are planning a trip remember to plan in the time when you get home to divide your purchases in to portions before you put them in the freezer. I would think even though I cook up 2Kg of minced beef at a time it would be easier to defrost if the meat has been frozen in 500g packages.
It was interesting to see how the market works - each shop has a little cabin where the cashier sits. When you buy something you are given a chit to go to the cashier with and then you come back with your receipt to collect your goods.
Many customers have brought big trolleys or even pallet trucks so watch where you are going. There are men walking about with blood on their hands and you can see butchers butchering with meat cleavers - its not a place for vegetarians - and definitely not the stall selling sheep heads!
However, under the white coats all the salesman are very smartly dressed in suits and ties.
To summarize, plan on arriving about 3am and its cold even in summer so to take a jacket or sweater to put on when you go in.
Buying from a market like Smithfield helps to keep the costs down. I would think most large cities would have a wholesale meat market like this. Getting meat wholesale can lead to big savings, but bear in mind that you will probably have to go in the middle of the night and the disruption to your routine will mean you will want to make significant savings if the trip is going to be worthwhile.
Think about asking some of your gym buddies if theyd like to go too.
Meat is sold in larger portions wholesale so choose carefully and plan how much space you have in your freezer. Dont buy more than you can freeze. You will need to divide the meat into portions when you get home before you can freeze it so plan time in for this too and dont buy cuts that you dont have the skill to divide.

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