Humans have been eating meat much before the beginning of historical records. The evolution of butchers have been one of the most necessary cogs in the development of humans, both as a species and a profession.
Our close ape ancestors, the chimpanzee, regularly hunts and eats raw meat. The archaeological evidence shows early humans possibly began to eat raw meat around 2.6 million years ago.
The eating of meat meant that our brains could develop further and at a faster rate. Meat is much more calorie and nutrient-dense food than fruits and nuts; which was likely to be our diet until meat started to be introduced.
The liking and eating of meat eventually led to hunting and gathering in clans. Which subsequently brought on the eventual cooking of meat, ultimately causing a reduction in the size of the jaw and teeth. These changes to the skeleton of early humans made room for a larger brain and were visible around 1.9million years ago.
The earliest indication of a butchery site was discovered here in the UK in 2003. Amongst a scene of scattered elephant bones, archaeologists found a selection of sharp flint tools, perfect for cutting into the hide and meat of animals. These bones were twice the size of elephants we see today and appeared to date back to 420,000 years old.
The likes of brains, tongues and bone marrow were used fully. Large rocks and petrified wood were found as well and were likely to be used to access the brain through the skull.
Butchers were present in the Roman Era. There was a huge demand for their skills and approaches to meat. The domestication of animals to cull was common for each household. However, as communities grew, the space for livestock shrank, causing an increase in the need for butchers.
In Devon, a livestock commercial farm was found dating back to 1700 years ago. When the animal was butchered, each part was still used as fully as possible.
Butchering was seen more as a pursuable profession and official trade in the Middle Ages. Maintaining cleanliness was key during this time to prevent disease spread. The eating of meat was also likely reserved for the wealthy due to the laws surrounding peasants hunting on aristocratic land.
The urbanisation of the land increased the demand for butchers even further as the population couldn’t, in general, hunt for their own meals. Cheaper cuts were used by the poor to add needed flavour and calories to soups and stews. The wealthy often consumed larger higher quality joints.
After the industrialisation of the country and the increase in supermarkets offering meat cuts at much cheaper prices, there was a decrease in the number of butcher shops as they couldn’t survive financially. However, in more recent history, butcher shops have had a sort of resurgence.
People are more conscious than ever of how their meat is obtained, taking steps away from large cooperations and mass production. People of today are opting for higher quality meat and are willing to pay a more premium price to get it directly from their local butchers; which we think is a great decision for everyone!
Here at Burts Catering and Butchers, we have a wide range of cuts for a variety of meats. All of our meat is 100% British and is tracible back to the farm it was reared on. Great meat, from a great farm, that’s hung by a quality butcher will make for the perfect roast.
Feel free to take a look at our extensive range of meats available for delivery here. Or if you’d like to talk to us about an order, to discuss your needs, or just to ask us a question; please call 01424 730417 or fill out an enquiry form here