Up Holland 's H.Greaves and Son get ready for National Beef Week

April sees National Beef Week and to mark the event we visit one of Lancashire's finest butchers Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Top chefs aren’t noted for their easy going manner when it comes to dealing with suppliers. People like Northcote’s Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth can set them some pretty serious challenges.

One company that always seems to rise to the occasion is H.Greaves and Son, a butcher that started life in Lancashire in the 1930s. If there were such things as celebrity butchers, the Greaves family would be up there in lights.

Not that there’s anything vaguely pretentious about this company which still occupies its original shop frontage in Up Holland near Wigan and adheres fiercely to traditional values.

‘We have dealt with the Greaves family for something like ten years,’ says Craig Brancroft, Nigel Haworth’s business partner. ‘Nigel always says that this is a company that has branched out but has managed to keep the feel of a real family butcher.

‘They are extremely loyal, they are always there when you need to speak to them and they bend over backwards to help even when you are asking for something special or out of the ordinary. They really are the salt of the earth with a great product and great service.’

It’s a similar story when you talk to successful chefs across the north west. Yet this business had humble beginnings in 1935. Harry Greaves was a farmer’s son and, as there were four of them, he had no choice but to find another way of earning a living.

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Today, the patriarch is his Harry’s son, Anthony, who joined the firm from school in 1958. ‘I’m supposed to be retired…let’s say semi-retired,’ he laughs. The third generation comes in the form of Robert, who looks after the butchery at Up Holland, and Robert, running the newly launched shop at the Carr Hall centre at Wilpshire, near Blackburn. Meanwhile, daughter Clare runs the Clare’s Kitchen outside catering business.

While the Up Holland shop front remains unchanged since the 30s the rear of business has been transformed, occupying a considerable amount of land and employing more than 30.

The key to a good butcher is good meat and Anthony is proud of the way the business matures beef for 28 days. He also points to the salt marsh lamb they buy from the Lancashire coast, the beef from the Duchy estate at Whitewell and the famous Lancashire lonk lamb. ‘We never buy in chicken fillets or drumsticks - we always do our own butchering,’ says Anthony.

The company still makes its own sausages, air-dried ham, pancetta and black pudding, and more than 80 per cent of it now goes wholesale or to restaurants and hotel via an eight-strong fleet of vehicles.

‘We even send a van down to central London twice a week,’ says Anthony. ‘Chefs who have used us in the north west get top jobs in London and still want to buy our meat. That must say something about the quality.’

So with two talent butchers for sons and Clare’s catering firm going strong, the Greaves name is set to live on. ‘I’ve got a grandson whose already coming in at weekends with his white apron on and helping out,’ laughs Anthony. ‘And he’s only ten.’

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