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Chatting Food with Dorking Butchery

For those of us tucking into a turkey this Christmas, the cost will be a key consideration with the current economic backdrop. But the choice of where you buy your turkey from can also be a vote for supporting the future of the climate.

Regenerative farming is a phrase you might have heard bubbling over in recent months. In short, it's the process of regenerating the soil and land farmed on. It encourages a shift from intensive farming to rotating crops, increasing biodiversity and maintaining livestock as an integral part of this ecosystem. It's also been tipped in the latest Waitrose Food & Drink Report as a key climate focus to kick off 2023, with a Regenuary campaign helping shine a light on how important farming is to help solve the climate crisis.

Recent studies have shown it's been able to regenerate the topsoil that's essential for growing our food, and it's now a vital conversation thread around how we help tackle impending climate issues within our food systems. Choosing to purchase a turkey this year from independent butchers or a shop working with farms that have introduced these practices can make your food choice count this Christmas. One such spot is The Dorking Butchery, which sources all of its meat from farms that adopt ethical farming and have adapted to these regenerative farming techniques.

We sat down with the two butchers behind The Dorking Butchery, Gary & Alex, to find out what it's all about and why regenerative farming is so important to their business ethics:

CF: How long has Dorking Butchery been going, and what inspired you to start it?

We opened Dorking Butchery in February 2016, so we're coming up to our seventh year now. The main inspiration, if we were to think about it, was the love for the job, so when the opportunity presented itself to us to run our own shop in our own image, it was a no brainer.

CF: Can you talk through your backgrounds before Dorking Butchery?

Gary, originally from Leeds, moved to Surrey in his late teens. Before he became a butcher, he was a classically trained chef and transferred into butchery in his early twenties, managing several shops.

Alex had worked at butcher shops since he was 16 when he first met Gary. After a spell working in London, where he won young butcher of the year in 2012, he returned to Surrey to start his own business.

CF: Tell us a bit about the team at Dorking - how big is the team now, and what do you look for?

We've always been blessed with great staff at our Dorking and Guildford stores. Our team is very strong, with a mixture of youth and experience, and everyone is very passionate about what they do. We tend to pick the person over the skill, which is key for any new starter for us. In our eyes, they have to fit into our team dynamic. We see our job as bringing new butchers into the trade, so an eagerness to learn and a good work ethic are vital for new staff coming into the business.

CF: What's your ethos around meat provenance when choosing the farms you want to work with?

We try to stay as local as possible and then, within that range, work with people who are as passionate about farming as we are about butchery. We work together to produce a product we're all happy and proud to sell, so we have to be on the same page about the quality of the meat we provide from field to fork. Luckily we have that in Dorking, and we've had a good relationship with all of our suppliers since we opened.

CF: Regenerative farming is something you're passionate about. Can you explain what it is and why it's so important?

Regenerative farming is simply traditional farming methods that have been practised in this country for hundreds of years. Mass produced farming damages the environment, but the tried and trusted methods that have served us well for so long actually put carbon back into the soil rather than taking it away and polluting our planet. That's why working with suppliers who adopt this is important.

CF: Christmas is coming; what makes your turkeys so special?

We get our Turkeys from Mayfield from a farmer called Will Sheffield. We've bought our free-range organic Bronze Turkeys from Will since our first Christmas back in 2016. It's a family-run business, and the quality Will produces is second to none. Will has been doing this all his life which definitely shows.

CF: It's going to be a tight Christmas for many people. How can families make their turkeys go a bit further?

Turkey is delicious cold, especially breast meat, so a boneless turkey breast joint would be ideal if you want leftovers. If you order enough for a couple of meals, you definitely get good value for money, and that lean meat can be made into sandwiches, curries or even chopped up and made into a pie.

CF: What's coming for Dorking Butchery in 2023?

Hopefully, we all have a great Christmas and kick on in the new year. We have some talented young talent working now, so developing them and giving them more experience will be first on our agenda. We have a couple of projects in the pipeline, but we are still working on something concrete. Our main priority is to keep doing what we've been doing for the last seven years, and if we can do that, we should be able to keep people coming back.

To find out more about The Dorking Butchery and regenerative farming, you can read all about it on their website here.


Chatting Food contributor: Lucie Rhoades


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