Most people have a love-hate relationship with the big-box stores. We hate going to the them; but even I can’t deny the ease of being able to buy potting soil, the new Deadpool DVD on Blu-Ray, some new underwear and bananas all in the same convenient store. Grocery stores (like Food Lion, Kroger, Harris Teeter, IGA) and even super centers or megastores (like Walmart, Target, Costco, etc) have become prevalent in the American and now global landscape. Walmart itself has 11,718 stores (as of January 31, 2018) that are operating in over 28 countries; which has allowed it to become the world’s largest company according to the 2018 Fortune 500 Global list. The Waltons are known for employing over 2.3 million people around the world and selling over $500 million in sales; but studies have proven that Walmart is slowly killing off small, locally owned businesses.
One of those businesses that have felt the sting of the increasing popularity of supermarkets is the local butcher shop. Sadly, butcher shops and meat markets are becoming less common because supermarkets or big box stores are either employing butchers for re-packaging or what is now called ‘secondary butchery’. Employers who essentially act as meat department managers or ‘meat department associates’ at these locations; display and/or package, for retail sale, meat from a packinghouse or specialized central processing plant (a technique that most chain grocery stores utilize: Food Lion and Walmart specifically).
In our convenience ridden society, we forget about the local butcher, fish monger, or meat market. What we forget is that butchery is an ancient trade, who can trace the roots of their profession to that of the early domestication of livestock. The first guild of butchers has been dated back to 1270 in England. This long tradition of hard working men and women (who could also be called ‘meat cutters’ in some parts of the world and country) cut the meat and prepare the carcass in different ways. There is a good chance that your local butcher sells their goods in specialized stores (known as a butchery, butcher’s shop in other parts of the world, or a meat market) and prepare fresh cuts of meat for sale. Most of the time time these shops serve related products (fresh produce, grocery items, baked goods, etc) while some also serve hot food (using their own products) or may include a small delicatessen.
I have been blessed to have been able to go to a local meat market and butcher shop for as long as I can remember. Billy’s Pork and Beef has been a staple in our community since 1989 and many years before that as it operated under different names. Some of my earliest memories are venturing to Billy’s at lunch when I would go hunting with my dad and we would get BBQ sandwiches and delicious sides from the hot bar. That night my mom would stop by and get freshly cut pork chops to cook for us. Sadly “Mr. Billy” passed away in 2017, a few months after the business was purchased by some amazing local folks; who have kept the spirit of this local meat market while tastefully modernizing the selection of food and items being sold. Their hot bar still serves hot meals all day (breakfast staples, filling lunch and delightful dinner). They serve a variety and ever changing menu of delicious and comforting Southern classics like fried chicken, stew beef, BBQ, butter beans, or collard greens; or their soul warming dishes like their homemade spaghetti, soup or clam chowder. You can buy fresh produce and locally sourced products (from local vendors and growers). They still hang the air dried sausage and country hams for all to see while you can hear the buzzing of the saw cutting meat fresh to order. If you’re ever in Duplin County, get on Hwy 41 and come to Tin City (just outside of Wallace, NC and conveniently located a couple of miles from the Pink Supper House). So come join me at the picnic tables; where you’ll find me eating a juicy BBQ sandwich.
Book scan from “A Butcher’s, Tacuinum sanitatis casanatensis (14th century) by unknown master – book scan, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1638811
Walmart in Garvey, Rosemead, CA, USA by peter boy12qq12, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59274824
Billy’s images by and accredited to Billy’s Pork and Beef official Facebook page, Public Domain, Fair Use.