Member Profile: Chris Hayman Butchers – Maesycwmmer , Caerphilly
Self-confessed foodie Chris describes his entry into butchery eleven years ago as a ‘mid-life crisis’. In his thirties he realised that working long term in fashion retailing was no longer for him and began looking for an alternative career. Already a customer of the butchers shop he now owns and being passionate about good quality meat led to him ‘trying out’ the butchers life by working in the shop on his days off. It wasn’t long before he realised this was what he wanted to do full time. So, when the current owner retired eight years ago he jumped at the chance to own and run his own shop – thus ‘Chris Hayman Butchers’ was born.
The shop now has three members of staff, including full time butcher, Craig Holly, a member of the Craft Butchery Team Wales, who competed in the World Butchers Challenge last year in Sacramento. Chris also recruited a young apprentice, Welyn, who is working towards his apprenticeship with Cambrian Training.
Very much a traditional family butchers Chris says he has a very loyal customer base, most of whom have shopped with him for many years. Disappointingly, he says that the majority of new customers picked up during Covid have not stayed and reports that other local food businesses have experienced the same. Despite this, Chris still offers online ordering with a click & collect or local delivery service – something he set up during the pandemic and now provides extra flexibility for his regular customers.
For those customers, buying Welsh meat, farmed, slaughtered and butchered locally, is very important. Although customers don’t always understand the detail of PGI status they are he says much more aware and interested in local sourcing and traceability is important to them. Chris feels more butchers would sell PGI accredited meat if it was less costly and simpler for smaller abattoirs to get accredited.
In addition to familiar meat cuts and joints Chris sells a wide variety of kitchen ready products, such as lamb croquettes, sage and onion chicken parcels, brisket ‘bombs’ and family favourites like beef fajitas and chicken curry. In recent weeks, acknowledging the cost of energy for his customers, Chris has introduced a small range of single portion cooked ready meals too. Currently there are five products in the range, including comfort food classics like Sausage and Mash with Onion Gravy, and more contemporary dishes like South Indian Garlic Chilli Chicken. Requiring only re-heating these meals are quick to cook so appeal to anyone watching their energy usage as well as being super convenient. For Chris, they can be cooked at the same time as his regular pies and pasties so are economical to produce too.
Supplying bespoke butchery services to local farmers selling their own meat in farm shops or keeping for their personal use is another string to Chris’s bow. He says it helps tide them over during quieter times but also is an important part of staying connected with the local farming community.
Looking ahead, Chris feels that like butchers in the rest of the UK, controlling energy costs primarily will be the biggest challenge of 2023. He doesn’t hold out much hope for the replacement for the Business Energy Relief Scheme, which he says saves him just £20 per month currently. Instead he is focussing on making small savings where he can – ensuring ovens are properly turned off, fridge doors kept closed, and generally being more aware. The biggest change he has made is in condensing his trading days from five to four. He says customers understand and have responded well.
Also key to ‘keeping the doors open’ is the willingness of customers to pay a little extra for high quality meat. As a butcher, Chris is happy to step up to this challenge,
‘We need to educate consumers slowly – and avoid preaching. The proof is in the taste. I just hope over time it becomes second nature to them to choose better quality meat.’