Local butcher profile – John Lavers, The Village Butchers, Denham

John Lavers started his butchery career in the late 1980s as a shopman and then a cutter at the world famous Smithfield Meat Market in Farringdon, London.

After learning the trade from the experts he began a meat delivery round in 1990, trading as J & L Meats, supplying meat from Smithfield to restaurants and butchers shops in North West London and South Buckinghamshire.

In 2007 John went into partnership with Lee Scarlett (of A & J Meats) to form Legion Foods, which continues to focus on supplying high quality meat to shops and restaurants from producers using traditional farming methods and grass-fed livestock.

John took over the running of The Village Butchers in Denham in 2012 with the objective of responding to consumer demand for low cost meat – without resorting to the corner-cutting methods, often found in modern farming, which reduce the flavour and quality of the meat.

The Village Butchers

John Lavers and his son Lenny

“It is true that you get what you pay for,” says John. “But that doesn’t mean that by providing a more direct supply chain to the public we can’t reduce cost AND retain quality.  Since we are a wholesaler, as well as a butchers shop, we can therefore sell high quality meat at wholesale prices, direct to consumers.  It really is a win-win situation, as consumers get both quality and value.”

Since taking over The Village Butchers, John has been able to reduce the price of the meat sold in the shop by around 20% across all products – whilst retaining or improving the quality and freshness.

John prides himself on the quality, traceability and affordability of his meat.  He continues to source fully traceable British meat from Smithfield market, but also has a direct relationship with a leading supplier of quality beef reared on the lush pastures of Northern Ireland – see Doherty & Gray.

Say John: “It is really important for us to ensure that all of our meat comes from Great Britain – but anyone in the trade will tell you that there are very few farms in England able to supply meat from grass-fed livestock, so you will find that many of the higher end British beef supplies come from either Scotland or Northern Ireland.  This is mainly due to the pressure that has been put on English farmers by the large supermarket chains who have demanded modern farming methods, such as grain-feeding, which has had a major impact on quality.”

Like many experienced butchers John is keen to see that the traditional methods of farming and meat supply are passed on to the next generation of wholesalers, butchers, restauranteurs and chefs.  To this end, John’s son Lenny – who has been working in the shop on Saturdays whilst studying for his A-levels – is now going to be working in the business full time.

Says Lenny, “I’ve been working here on Saturdays since Dad took over the shop and have enjoyed it so much that I’ve decided to make a career of it.”

Lenny is learning fast from his Dad and is looking forward to providing the same friendly customer service and cooking advice that John knows is important to his customers – especially when trying the more unusual cuts of meat that people may not have had experience of cooking before.

John is always keen to help his customer – so with a day or so notice he says he can get just about any kind of meat that might take your fancy.  He has even offered to supply zebra or crocodile steaks for me, if I really want to try something different (though of course he accepts that this is something that won’t be originally sourced from within the UK)!

Leave a Reply