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Horsemeat scandal prompts calls to buy local at region's farmers' markets
BUY LOCAL: Barry Pattison, of Durham and Venison and Game, has noticed an upturn in trade due to the horsemeat scandal.
ORGANISERS of farmers' markets around the region are hoping shoppers will buy local as a result of the ongoing horsemeat scandal.
At Barnard Castle on Saturday, there was plenty of horse play – but no horse meat – at the town's first outdoor farmers' market of the year.
Officials had arranged for a pantomime horse to entertain shoppers – courtesy of volunteers from the town's Castle Players theatre group – and highlight the quality of local produce on the stalls.
It was a message that went down well with both stallholders and their customers.
Barry Pattison, who runs Newton Aycliffe-based Durham Venison and Game with his brother Alan, said: “We buy it in, fur and feathers, and do it ourselves.
“We are time-served butchers and slaughtermen, so we can tell the customers exactly where it comes from, how it is made and what it is made of.
“Since the horse meat issue began, we have noticed a difference in trade – especially with the burgers we sell.”
While Barry was busy at Barnard Castle, Alan was manning a stall at Stokesley Farmers' Market.
“We do about 12 or 13 farmers' markets each month – they are our main outlets,” said Barry.
At Saltburn, where the farmers' market returns on Saturday, March 9, organiser Lorna Jackson is hoping the upward trend of shopper numbers continues.
An independent survey showed a 112 per cent increase in the number of visitors to Saltburn market between May, 2011 and October last year.
She said: “A big majority of shoppers thought the wide range of fresh local produce was their favourite thing about the market.
“That was before the outcry caused by the ongoing horsemeat scandal - something that really made people sit up and think how and where their food comes from."
Back at Barnard Castle, shoppers James and Cristen Huntington, from Butterknowle, said they were “quite conscientious” about supporting local meat producers.
“Mincemeat and sausage is much better quality for much the same price you get in the supermarket,” said Mr Huntington.
Annemarie Curley and Paul Errington had driven to Teesdale from Gosforth specifically to buy their meat from the stall of Penrith-based Deer 'n Dexter.
“We have always been concerned about where our meat comes from and we always go to a family butcher,” said Mr Errington. “The prices are comparable with supermarkets but the quality is so much better.”
Katrina Palmer, a member of Barnard Castle Farmers' Market's management committee, said: “The panto horse cause a bit of amusement, but we definitely got our message across.”