Meat us in the middle

Netherby Meats owner Mike Hanson (left) and store manager Rachel Lyon with some of their goods ready to be picked up by click and collect customers.

Retail Meat New Zealand is urging the government to allow butchers to open during lockdown.

Currently, under Alert Level 4, independent butchers are only allowed to have contactless deliveries – a position unviable for many operators.

Compounding the issue is supermarkets are under increasing pressure.

Netherby Meats owner Mike Hanson said initially this lockdown was similar to the last with it not being clear at the outset what they were and were not allowed to do.

There was some clarification when he was contacted by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) last week and informed he could open for online sales only and have a click and collect option for customers to pick up their order.

Mr Hanson said having local butchers open to the public during lockdown would help spread the load for supermarkets.

“We are a small local butcher, where we could have one or two in here at a time with a good two meter distance no worries, it wouldn’t be packed like a supermarket,” he said.

A website for click and collect had been set up during lockdown 2020 and had been running since with regular online orders each week.

When this lockdown was announced Mr Hanson stayed open until 11pm that evening to help locals get their meat before lockdown.

Staff have carried on working through lockdown, and spirits are high.

“The staff are all good, our guys are here from 7am till 6pm, and if the lockdown is extended we’ll carry on doing click and collect and deliveries in town as well,” he said.

There had been talk of a petition, but Retail Meat New Zealand general manager Antoinette Bisset said working directly with government was the best way to keep the pressure on.

“The reality for many members is an extended lockdown could sign the death sentence for their businesses. The losses many of them suffered during last years’ lockdown and a wage subsidy that appreciated plaster, we could see an eventuality where many of them don’t open up again,” she said.

“The government has to consider the long-term impacts this will have on food security, particularly for rural and regional communities that rely on their local butcher to keep them fed.

“Our members acknowledge that the whole country is feeling the impacts of this latest lockdown, but know they can do their part to keep Kiwis fed at a time of national crisis.

Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard said limiting butchers to online booking and deliveries was not good enough.

“Most of our small butchers and greengrocers simply don’t have the delivery mechanisms, or access to them, to successfully deliver perishable goods,” he said.

“New Zealand butchers operate in a covid-like situation permanently, the hygiene regimes are regularly audited by Assure Quality, they meet them – or they are out of business.”

By Daniel Tobin