Local butcher George Payne marks 30-year milestone
One of Tyneside’s longest established and best-known traditional independent family butchers is this year celebrating its landmark 30th anniversary.
George Payne opened his shop in Brunton Park, Gosforth, in 1987, and, like his late father Harry, has been a butcher man and boy. Before turning ten, he got odd jobs during school holidays, gained a taste for the work and went on to serve his butchery apprenticeship with a large firm in Newcastle
George explained: “As a butcher, my father worked all his life for someone else. I always knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but was determined to eventually work for myself. That dream became a reality 30 years ago. The rest, as they say, is history!”
Three decades on, George, who describes his small, but thriving butchery as a “village shop within a city,” has himself become a high profile name in the industry sector.
A former Northumbria Butcher of the Year winner – the shop’s products have also won countless industry awards and accolades over the years – George is a founder member and former regional and national chairman of the Butchers Q Guild, which represents over 120 of the country’s leading butchers.
He remains one of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes,’ an honour gained because of his continuing commitment to sourcing and supplying rare and native breed meats – and it in this specialist arena that the Princes Road shop has earned widespread renown.
For George is a true champion in this field, providing his customers with meat from locally and naturally reared traditional free-range British and native breed cattle, sheep and pigs – and through field-to-fork partnerships developed and cemented with local farmers over many years.
Premium beef from pedigree Dexters is proving particularly popular at the moment. The shop’s current local suppliers are Northumberland farmers John and Sue Towers, of Combhill Farm, near Morpeth. “Dexter beef has outstanding quality and tastes as beef used to taste. It cooks superbly because of the excellent marbling and eats like a dream,” enthused George.
Other prime beef cuts regularly available over the counter include British Shorthorn, Highlanders, Aberdeen Angus, Galloway and Luing beef from Scotland.
Much of the shop’s lamb and pork comes from Northumberland farmers and award-winning environmentalists, Tom and Karen Burn, of Hunting Hall Farm, Beal. Prime lamb offerings include a mix of both recognised and lesser known sheep breeds, among them Wensleydales, Herdwicks and Zwartbles, while porkers regularly on parade include Tamworth, British Lop, Saddleback, Gloucester Old Spot, British Lop and Middle Whites.
“We are always looking to provide something different, notably meat that cannot be bought in supermarkets. You really can taste the difference. How do we know? Our customers often comment on the quality and flavour of these traditional and native breeds,” said George.
In earlier years, he was closely involved with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and to this day shares its ethos to conserve and protect the UK’s rare and native breeds of farm animals from extinction. “The very fact that we sell their meat helps ensure their survival,” he commented.
Now 68 and still going strong, George said that while he had seen many changes over the years, he had not lost his appetite for the job.“I found I loved it all those years ago – and I still do now. When I get a chance to work at the block, I look down at my own hands boning lamb, for instance, and think that’s a skill to be really proud of.
“Even though I have done the same thing thousands of times, it is still fresh and wonderful, though these days I am fortunate in being able take things a little easier thanks to the support of a great shop team led by manager Alex Daley, who will all go that extra mile to help and advise our customers.”
While the shop will be running special anniversary promotions throughout the year, linked into events such as British Sausage Week, the undoubted highlight falls at the beginning of June, the actual anniversary, when George Payne Butchers plans to beef up the milestone by rolling back the years – and the prices – to offer Beef Topside at the same price it was sold at three decades ago.