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Behind the scenes at Butcher Farrell’s Meat Emporium

Jonny Farrell and James Shaw (c) Kirsty Thompson
Jonny Farrell and James Shaw (c) Kirsty Thompson

Butcher Farrell’s Meat Emporium is not your average butcher’s shop. There’s light-box signage, unique sauces and spices, fridges filled with huge blocks of Himalayan salt and enormous cuts of beef, and almost 36,000 followers on Instagram.

It stands to reason then, that owner Jonny Farrell is not your average butcher.

Originally trained as a sound engineer, Jonny was also a saxophonist in a band that played festivals like Reading and Leeds as well as touring Europe. He ‘fell into’ the butchery business while living in Shanghai, after he (somewhat drunkenly) booked flights to Beijing which led to eight years living in Asia.

When Jonny and his now-wife Amy moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong, he worked for a high end butchery where speciality meats would be ordered from across the globe to meet customers’ requirements. ‘Because there’s no agriculture in Hong Kong, everything had to be imported’ Jonny explains ‘and they were willing to import it from the best suppliers in the world.’

Great British Life: 45 day dry aged Coet de beuf (c) Kirsty Thompson45 day dry aged Coet de beuf (c) Kirsty Thompson

Following this he was headhunted by a number of different restaurants where he continued to learn from other chefs and specialist butchers, ultimately working at one of the top steak restaurants in Hong Kong. When the couple moved back to the UK, Jonny found it a challenging change of pace. ‘It was difficult at first because I was used to the efficiency and speed of city life where everything is at your fingertips or delivered the next day. Sleepy English villages aren’t quite the same,’ he grins.

For a number of years he thoroughly enjoyed working with TV presenter and farmer Jimmy Doherty, where he learnt a lot about animal husbandry and pigs in particular. ‘I’ve tried to learn as much as possible from everyone I’ve worked alongside over the years, and it’s stood me in good stead because I’m not restricted to a particular style or discipline.’

Jonny went on to complete a Masters in Food Science at Manchester Metropolitan University, before opening his own shop.

His Hong Kong experience of sourcing the world’s finest produce may have influenced his discerning approach to his own business. ‘It’s consistent quality that’s important to me’ Jonny explains, ‘We’re very lucky to have some fantastic farms and producers right on our doorstep, but I’m also happy to go further afield if it means we can source the absolute best of the best. It’s what our reputation’s built on. We have a diverse range of suppliers across the North West, including a couple of smallholdings dedicated to rearing just a small number of very-well-cared-for rare breed animals.’

Jonny is joined at Butcher Farrell’s Meat Emporium (BFME) by James Shaw and Sam Bailey, two well-respected chefs who turned their culinary creativity to butchery and are able to advise customers on cuts, recipes and more. Together they push dry ageing boundaries and create new butchery products to inspire chefs, cooks and meat lovers.

As well as their regular shop customers and those who order online, the busy three-man team supply around more than a dozen top restaurants across Lancashire including Liverpool’s Manifest and Belzan, and Tim Allen’s Michelin Star Sō-lō in nearby Aughton.

When it came to ‘Best New Butchery 2023’ at the Butcher’s Shop of the Year awards, BFME made mincemeat of the competition.

The trio enjoy working alongside their restaurant customers to produce signature products; curing bespoke ham hocks or ageing tomahawk steaks in port for two months, for example.

Great British Life: Butcher Farrell's Meat Emporium (c) Kirsty ThompsonButcher Farrell's Meat Emporium (c) Kirsty Thompson

Jonny and the team pride themselves on offering an ever-changing product list, from traditional chops, steaks and sausages, to flavourful ex-dairy beef, tender Brazilian style picanya, North African merguez, and the perfect American style tri-tip for smoking, which might have been consigned to stewing meat in a more traditional UK butchery.

‘We share new products online and quite often they’re ordered via Instagram before they’ve ever made it to the display counter, so we keep ourselves very busy staying on top of stocking the shop and fulfilling orders.’

With quality, creativity, skill and service in abundance - it’s little surprise Butcher Farrell’s Meat Emporium was crowned best newcomer in the UK and it seems likely to be the first of many awards to come.



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