A Little Bit of Butchery

Aren't butchers happy chappies? And they are nearly all chaps. When was the last time you saw a woman butcher? I don't think I ever have but I'm prepared to believe that they exist. And I bet they are just brimming with bonhomie as well.

Butchers always seem to know the latest joke. They've always got a bit of devon for any kid hanging hopefully at the counter while the parent shops. They can get away with calling you "love" or "dear" (well at least I let them get away with it) because how could one possibly take umbrage at these most affable of people? Surely there isn't a nasty bone in their bodies.

Except that these people make a living from cutting up dead animals.

Of course they have to be cheerful. They help keep our minds off the very fact that we are in a shop full of carcases. The last thing they want to do is remind us that the half a dozen lamb chops we just bought were part of an animal (probably a fluffy, white and indescribably cute one) that up until a short while ago had nothing better to do than gambol and frolic around a paddock.

I think that butchers were the first profession to get into multi-skilling. I mean for years, as well as trimming, dicing and slicing animals, they have been expert public relations and customer service practitioners. Imagine a butcher's apprenticeship. A typical day of classes might include Basic Sausage Stuffing, Beef Cuts 1A, Trendy Marinated Meats and Advanced Service with a Smile.

Of course some of you may never have actually met a butcher. And I don't just mean the vegetarians. I'm thinking of those of you who buy your meat from the supermarket. Meat from a supermarket has never been particularly meaty. I mean it has never reminded me of animals. What with its neat little styrofoam tray and its covering of clingwrap with a nice neatly typed label attached, it is so far removed from a living breathing creature as to inspire not even a tremor of guilt at the thought of dining on a member of another species.

Picture that inoffensive 500g pack of mince meat. At some point in far distant history, I can see someone coming up with the idea of killing an animal and eating it. I can perceive how someone may have stumbled onto cooking a dead animal before eating it, or adding other ingredients to it before doing so. But who on earth ever thought of the idea of mincing meat? Of reducing a whole animal to tiny, less-than-bite-sized pieces of flesh?

And who the hell was the person who declared "Hey - great idea! Let's take a chicken, squash it to buggery, wrap it in a plastic tube and call it chicken loaf"? And who thought of putting those little paper socks on the ends of racks of lamb? Or sticking the apple in the roast pigs' mouth? And…err…turducken??

No wonder butchers are so happy. Because the joke's on us. And on the poor benighted creatures whose remains are treated with such indignity. What will they think of next? Pre-digested meat? Meat that looks even less like meat? Meat that is the shape of vegetables perhaps? Or what about genetically bred meat that doesn't even taste like meat? I tell you, those butchers will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Who the hell was the person who declared "Hey - great idea! Let's take a chicken, squash it to buggery, wrap it in a plastic tube and call it chicken loaf"?