/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Where do you buy your meat?

A steak dinner

Would you make an extra journey just to buy a great steak? Is it really worth your time, effort and money to go out of your way just for a piece of meat? Or do you pick up your steak with your weekly supermarket shop?

I think an extra journey for a great steak is well worth it, and that isn’t just because I’ve been working on the recent Which? sirloin steak taste test.

Most of the time I shop at the same supermarket and pick up everything I need there. But I buy a steak to eat at home about once a month and, when I do, I buy it from my local butcher. Steak is a bit of a special occasion food for me and I like both the meat and the service I get at the butchers.

But I’m in the minority – six in 10 steak-buying Which? members buy their steak from supermarkets, with only a quarter buying from local butchers.

Steak taste test

We’ve recently tested premium, pre-packed sirloin steak from seven supermarkets. We tested sirloin steak, because it’s the most widely bought steak by Which? members – half of steak buyers go for sirloin. The results of our taste test show which sirloin is worth making an extra journey for.

Super butchers vs supermarkets

There are more than 2,000 butchers recommended on Which? Local, so many butchers are certainly doing a lot of things right and seem to be popular with their customers.

But some of the premium supermarket steaks we’ve tested are exceptional. So is there really any difference in the quality of the meat you’ll find at the butchers and at the supermarket? And am I right to carry on choosing local and paying a little bit more?

In the battle of local butchers vs supermarkets, is premium steak at the supermarket just as good as the best butchers’ meat? Or will the butcher always be best? Let us know where you buy your meat and what you think of it.

Where do you buy your meat?

At the supermarket (41%, 132 Votes)

At the butchers (27%, 86 Votes)

It varies (23%, 76 Votes)

I don't buy meat (9%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 324

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I like to buy my meat from a online butchers. Have been doing so for the last year. Spend about £200 and that can last me a good few months.

What I like is they send you it all frozen so you just take and use as when is needed and never goes off.

Jon Bradbury says:
16 April 2013

I’m sure the figures will be somewhat skewed by recent horse meat situation.

I’ve been buying all our meat from a local farm butcher for about 12-18 months now, generally found most of the meat less watery, particularly the bacon (which is also thicker cut, so whilst getting same number of rashers per £, getting more weight), and the price very competitive. The sausages at one of the butchers are absolutely superb, so much that we usually end up coming away with orders for family far & wide, the other butchers, yeah I struggle to tell their sausages apart from Tesco’s.

Even if the supermarkets are upping their game again, I’m choosing to support local businesses, put my money back in to them, and be a small part in attempting to cease the supermarket juggernaut of taking over every high street & side street & public inn possible

athur adams says:
10 July 2013

I have for at least three years been buying meat and other products from Donald Russel by package from Scotland. I think that I get value for money.
I love Rib Eye steak and every one that I have bought from this source has been excllent to my requirements.
I notice that you did not include this company in your report
Arthur Adams

Donnie MacLean says:
26 July 2013

I have also bought meat regularly from Donald Russell and could not agree more with quality and reliability of the meat. Never been disappointed and with lots of orders delivery is free. Great company, great value and origin of meat reliable.

Looking at the website I’m not sure I’d include “great value”. However, better to have a bit of high quality meat and enjoy it than a lump of cheap stuff – somewhere in between is probably the best compromise and I think a decent butcher or quality supermarket can meet that need.

richard says:
16 April 2013

Used to buy local – but local stopped supplying decent meat reliably – Now like Lee – I’m buying it increasingly from on-line suppliers.

We buy our meat at M&S – steaks almost always excellent, particularly rump which from other sources can be tough. Even small beef joints hold their size and stay succulent.

I’m part of a partly-vegetarian household and our diet is largely vegetarian. One daughter is staunchly vegetarian. My partner will eat only certain meats(chicken or beef) after having been vegetarian for twenty years. I prefer lamb to most other meats.
We live near the north Wales border so there’s an abundance of locally-produced high quality free range beef and lamb which is available through various local outlets including our bi-weekly town farmers market. We generally get our meat from these sources even though the prices are higher than the town supermarkets(Saisburys and Morrisons). We used to get organically produced meat from Sainsburys but they have slowly stopped supplying these brands. Now none is ever available. Pricing would have prevented customers from buying these products during the recent economic duress.
When I buy meat I would prefer organic, but free-range local produce is acceptable.

Rose says:
18 April 2013

I used to buy my meat in the supermarket, but now I don’t eat meat any more. All the scandal regarding the horsemeat made me think that we don’t really know what’s in our meat, or what drugs the animals have been treated with.

As for getting full traceability from the butcher, what about McColgan’s butchers shop in Strabane Northern Ireland which was caught out in the meat scandal. It was on the BBC news.

eileen says:
19 April 2013

I buy steak at my local co-op when it is on offer, otherwise I prefer to buy from the Farmers’ market 7 miles away in Totnes, Devon. I buy smaller quantities but the quality and range is superb and the farmers can tell you about its source.
We are eating more fish than meat now. It is costly, but takes very little cooking time, so we save on that.
I love making tasty enjoyable economic meals.

I prefer to buy meat from a good butchers but, owing to limited time, all my food is bought in one go at the supermarket.

Deb Miller says:
20 April 2013

I buy my meat from a number of sources. Whole lamb from a local farmer who sells it butchered and packed for the freezer, scottish beef from Costco, pork from a local pork butcher and chicken from Waitrose.

Mair says:
20 April 2013

I used to buy only specific cuts of meat at a local butcher’s specialising in maintaining rare breeds in the village of Comberton, Cambs and pre-packed organic cold meats and bacon from the supermarket. However, since the horsemeat debacle, I now buy all meat from the butcher’s and it’s so much tastier; not just braising steak and joints but sausages, ham and bacon too. They understand their produce and know where it’s come from and I like supporting a local trader.

I do not buy any meat from Tesco, even though I’m hemmed in by them. I go to Sainsbury’s or Waitrose once a week to buy meat products. This involves spending on petrol but it is worth it to know that the meat I pay for is what I get. But is it?

Tesco did a line of bacon advertising, “no added water”. They now seemed to have stopped that line. I would like to know how much water is injected into our meat, whether it’s butchers doing it too.

To bulk up meat by injecting water is just plain stealing. Are all the supermarkets doing it?

If so, the price of food, especially meat, has gone up astronomically. We are buying more water and being conned into thinking the price has only gone up a bit. We should all care about added water to food.

Janet Taylor says:
27 April 2013

I do most of my meat buying from the supermarket, and have recently switched to Morrisons simply because they are the only British supermarket chain to state that the meat they sell is 100% British and, importantly, not halal ( although I understand that there are some disputes over the veracity of this claim ). In a country where we have strict welfare standards for the humane slaughter of meat I’m appalled that not only are there exemptions for religious reasons, but also that there is still no requirement to indicate the slaughter method. About time Which added this to its campaign list.

I tend to agree with you. All animals slaughtered for meat should be done so humanely, meaning without suffering through long transportation or at the end. I think a fight against halal is sadly not possible yet in this world. Not until religion becomes truly obsolete which will take a bit more time in some areas of the world. I actually am hazy about halal slaughter methods because I think I’ve blocked it out, having to eat halal meat as a teacher for years.

patandalan says:
20 May 2013

since the horse meat scandal we have vetoed all red meat from the supermarket.

we buy at a family butcher which has its own slaughterhouse.

the meat is excellent, service personal, we can buy just what we want. though as its some miles from our home we usually do a big meat shop and put stuff in the freezer in usable quantities.

and its surprisingly good value for money. who says supermarkets are cheap. they trade on convenience and con us into thinking their prices are low/

Daventrydeeks says:
1 June 2013

Interesting article in Which, but one of the criteria I would have been interested in is whether the Beef is grass fed or corn fed.
Not sure how much difference that makes in terms of taste (I do not exactly have a connoisseurs tongue) but I prefer to get grass fed whenever I can due to the better health benefits (Grass fed cows contain greater Omega 3 fat as opposed to Omega 6)

Peter AW Talbot says:
5 July 2013

I do not buy my meat I produce it, and I am appalled at how so few people know what their labels mean. I produce all my meat from Original population Herefords, called Traditional Herefords in the Herd Book. I suspect that all the beef produced for, and therefore consumed by the general populous is crossbred beef from the dairy herd, so the labels are extremely confusing. For example your Hereford beef from Waitrose is definitely Hereford sired beef, not pure Hereford beef, a completely different product and probably as much a reflection of dam as the sire. The comments above about pasture fed beef is also relevant, healthy animals, and thus healthier meat comes from the feeding of pasture, not the feeding of single ingredients. Our health is dependent on what we eat, the greater the variety the more healthy the diet should be. Proper pasture with its great variety of plants is for herbivores essential, most of what is produced today is fed on single products, either grain or single variety grasses, if you wish to get healthy diets then you need proper province, including the breeding of the animal, those bred to in today’s market for today’s feeding regimes, will reflect that regime, for healthy and good tasting food you need an environmental diversity and animals that can live and fatten in that environment. The argument given against that is it is not cheap enough for the ordinary consumer, well a smaller amount of good food is considerable better for you than a pile of junk food. Cost is relative and a diet of food produced more naturally should reflect in your own natural health, thus saving money in all the other components we use to sustain as long a life as possible. Finally, your picture of the chef and the joint of meat was most interesting, if I am not mistaken that is a rump not a sirloin.

Daventrydeeks says:
5 July 2013

Well put Sir – excellent post 🙂

steve C Dorchester says:
27 February 2014

About two weeks before christmas a shop was being prepared for opening in the old arcade Dorchester A BUTCHERS. On opening it didn’t look to be very busy such a shame as so much time had been spent on getting it up and running My mother said ill support it so 7 days before christmas she bought a top quality piece of beef for christmas lunch The butcher asked when it was for and then offered to vacuum pack for keeping.
Christmas lunch arrived beef cooked and WOW
It was superb melted in the mouth full of flavour ,best piece of beef the family had tasted for some time.
Word of mouth soon spread the news around the village and amongst friends.Happy to report 7 people from the village now going to the new butchers, furthermore my mother was informed by someone else about the excellent ,meat from this new outlet.
Service and quality will always be rewarded,now every time we pass the shop is busy !!

Hattie says:
13 June 2015

I used to buy meat at supermarkets only, because it was a quick and easy way of picking it up, but after I’d tried some locally reared beef and lamb I didn’t want to go back. My family and I prefer the taste of locally butcher quality meat so much and I like to know where it comes from. The only problem is trying to fit in the time to get it, so now I order a box of meat and veggies from http://veg-inabox.co.uk/ and it gets delivered. It’s so fresh and I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to supermarket meat!

I can no longer bring myself to eat supermarket meat! I have gut dysbiosis and need to keep off meat reared with antibiotics and was confused about whether to buy free range from the butcher or organic from the supermarket. Consequently, I have been doing a lot of research online about the best meats for this. omg it is awful what they do to the animals not only when they are alive but in the processing! Never will I buy from the supermarkets again. Bad people!