Britain gets its birds ready for the holidays

Since its founding over 800 years ago, Smithfield, London's historic wholesale meat market, has determined the prices of meat and poultry in Britain throughout the centuries.

It is among the largest markets of its kind in Europe and certainlyBritain's biggest meat market. To meet demand, the market opens its doors for the last weekend before Christmas, sometimes the last two weekends depending on which day of the week it falls on. While turkey remains the biggest seller, goose may well be served up on many a dinner plate this Christmas.

It is impossible to predict just how much poultry will be sold in the days before Christmas, or the amount of money the wholesalers will make. Each year, Smithfield sells around 120,000 mt of meat, 8 % of the meat sold in Britain, coning from as far as Australia, New Zealand, South America and Africa. However, European Union regulations have constrained many butchers to concentrate on European and British producers. To bring itself in line with EU rules, Smithfield underwent a 70-million-pound (US$140 million, EUR100 million) refit, notably installing refrigerated rooms.

Smithfield veterans say the market lost some of its character along the way, with all meat on display the customer now wrapped in plastic, with carcasses hanging on hooks in the cold rooms at the back.

Shopkeepers and restauranteurs browse the stands amid the commotion, negotiating prices in the three giant halls. As there are no fixed prices, everything is down to negotiations between the wholesaler and the customer. According to the salesmen, prices are between 20 and 50 % lower than in the shops.


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Editor WorldPoultry

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