Eco hints & tips #1 – Time to get beefy with the butcher

Butchers Andre & Sue Vitel

‘Growing food for the world’s burgeoning population is likely to send greenhouse gas emissions over the threshold of safety, unless more is done to cut meat consumption, a new report has found.’.  This article, from the Guardian, talks through the findings of research from Oxford Martin School.  Over the last year we have personally dropped meat consumption at home from a 6 days a week to three days a week with the remainder made up of vegetarian/vegan or fish.

Plastic coated meat for human consumption

That said, we do still eat meat (there is absolutely no way my hubby is giving up his treasured Sunday roast), and this is where individuals can make the relevant choices when shopping which will reduce their carbon footprint further.  In many of the supermarkets we are faced with rows and rows of tidy packages of meat, presented in pre-determined portion sizes and sitting pretty in their plastic packaging.  So very far removed from the animals they once were.

Pre-packaged meat portions

But did you know that the majority of black packaging under the red meat isn’t recyclable?  Not just in Jersey, but globally. The black plastic packaging is coloured using carbon black pigments which cannot be detected by optical sorting systems used in the majority of recycling centres, and so it gets rejected for recycling and ends up in landfill or incinerated. It is used specifically so that we aren’t affronted by seeing blood, as we would do if it was packaged against the normal clear packaging.  The clear packaging used with white meat is recycleable, but not in Jersey.  In a way I’m pleased about that because it just made me look for alternatives, look for ways that I could purchase meat without any single-use plastics at all.

Butcher Andre Vitel

A while ago I met with butcher Andre Vitel and his wife Sue at their shop in St John.  At fifteen years old, straight out of school, Andre trained as a butcher at Lidsters then moved to work as a butcher at co-op until 1997, before leaving the trade for some 16 years – to work on the cable network with JT.

Package free shopping direct from the butcher

How fresh and appetising the meat looks when it is served without unnecessary plastic packaging!  At least in this way you can shop for exactly the amount you need, rather than some pre-determined portion size coated in plastic, and by default helps cut down on food waste.  And of course you have the added advantage of talking to a real person, with a passion for his work.  You can talk to Andre about cuts of meat, amount needed and even how best to cook it!

Frozen dog food made from excess meat

One of the biggest things that impressed me about Andre was they way in which he strives to be as waste-free as possible in every aspect of his business.  Andre manages the waste products from the butchers by making raw dog food from the excess meat.  This can be bought fresh but any extra is then frozen too, to reduce waste, prolong it’s life and provide constant availability for customers (or their dogs at least!).  In terms of other business waste Andre and Sue recycle everything in the shop that can be recycled.

Other local produce on offer

Andre also supports other local business by selling their produce too, and offers a small collection of goods to complement the meat you purchase there.

Sue, ready to help you

Traditionally the meat has been served in very thin plastic wrap – a tiny amount of plastic compared to the standard supermarket plastic-wrapped versions.  However, since early last year, Andre has been encouraging his customers to bring their own containers and he’s happy to serve directly into them, zero waste!  Whilst it wasn’t really picked up much last year, this year is a completely different story.  After the eye-opening scenes from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet individuals are heeding the call and more than ever they are stepping away from single use plastics in every way they can.

Plastic waste is an issue that we all need to reduce.So we want you to help us do our little bit. About a year ago, we…

Posted by AR Vitel Family Butcher Ltd on Monday, 29 January 2018

In a recent facebook post Andre urged islanders to reduce plastic waste and bring their own containers, and now he’s happy to report a 90% uptake!  How awesome is Andre to allow this service, and how awesome are each and every one of you – doing your bit for our environment!  I’m so pleased that this has taken off.  Why not follow Andre on Facebook to see how his zero-waste movement goes?

My explosive Tupperware cupboard

If you are anything like me then you will have that one dodgy cupboard overflowing with plastic cartons and Tupperware.  The one you are scared to open in case everything all tumbles out at once.  Why not put some into a long-life shopping bag, and pop them in the boot of your car?  In that way you’ll have them handy, even if you end up shopping when you didn’t plan to.

But if you don’t have anything suitable, why not invest in some of these awesome Pyrex dishes*. They are made of glass with a plastic lid, but the huge win here is that you can purchase your products straight into the bowl, then pop in the fridge when you get home.  You can then prep the meat and cook it in the same dish, and if you have leftovers they can be put in the fridge or freezer (when cool enough) – all in the same one dish.  Anything that helps the environment, and cuts down on washing-up, has to be a good thing.  Please buy locally, if you can, and support local businesses – I know you can buy these in Co-op and Le Lievres, and if you know of other places let me know and I’ll update this list.

A selection of meat from AR Vitel butchers

I know from personal experience that you can also purchase meat zero-waste from the butchers at Homegrown.  I’ve also contacted the following butchers who have also indicated they would be willing to serve food into the same containers – Jon Hackett of Me & The Farmer, Sylvia’s Butchers and Lidsters in the central market.  The butchers at Co-op and Waitrose are not currently able to serve into you, but I’m working on it!

So, if you are a meat eater, why not visit Andre at St John, or challenge your local butcher or supermarket to allow you to use your own containers and help our island work towards the Surfers against Sewage backed campaign for #plasticfreejersey status!

With thanks to Andre and Sue, not just for their time, but their enthusiasm for creating the best environmental business they can.


*Please buy products locally where possible, to support local businesses.  If you do purchase through these Amazon links then the blog may receive a small commission which would be used against its running costs.

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