Monthly Archives: November 2011

Good listening

A great little show on BBC Radio London aired last week to coincide with the Meat Traders Journal “Best Butchers Shop 2012”. This is the award that I won last year for managing the best shop in the South of England. Ed, the editor of MTJ has done a great job plugging the trade, nice one mate and thanks also to Robert Elms. Click this link or cut and paste below.

Charlie the Butcher.


I would like Santa to bring me a Berkel bacon slicer

I don’t suppose my ideal Christmas present is on everyone’s list but I’ve always wanted a big bad boy bacon slicer and the Berkel is tops.

Perfect, but how to gift wrap it ?

Wilhelm van Berkel, was born in Holland on 5 February 1869, son of a pub owner and brother of a butcher. He was the inventor of a cutting machine with a movable meat table. This way meat products could be cut neatly and regularly Up until that time butchers were kept busy slicing with 16-inch long carving knives.

Van Berkel had worked his way up from a butcher’s boy to become the owner of three successful shops. Then he began the deliberate search for a winning way to slice sausages and other meats mechanically.

This quest took years, often working through the night, ruining costly pieces of meat and starting many times over. During his search he saw the attempts of others who had devised mechanisms for slicing meat. No matter how ingenious these were – with spiral or elliptical knives – they could not be put to any practical purpose at all.

Van Berkel’s search was eventually rewarded. His find was the concave knife and an upper table sliding automatically towards the blade. He succeeded in constructing a prototype which more than proved its worth in his own pork shop.

He realised at once the far-reaching possibilities of his invention. He applied for a patent and immediately began to consider ways of mass producing his slicing machine.

This invention was set to revolutionise the butcher’s trade, where quality of cut and the speed of the slicer were very important.

By 1898, Van Berkel has started production at factories based in Rotterdam, and soon slicers were in demand all over Europe. Master butchers simply could not believe that hand-sliced meat or sausage could be matched or even excelled by a machine !

With his experience in the trade, Van Berkel confidently took to the road to win over all the butchers. He skillfully demonstrated the results that could be achieved with the slicer, and reassured butchers they would be fully employed coping with the increased business generated.

Van Berkel’s foresight and commercial spirit quickly led him to foreign markets. Berkel Ltd was established in London in 1908 and was manufacturing slicers in England for a period after the first World War. In America, Berkel started manufacturing as the U.S. Slicing Machine Co. Inc. in 1909. By 1915, the company had outgrown its facilities in Chicago and moved on to La Porte, Indiana.

Now part of Avery Berkel, slicers and food processing equipment are still sold under the Berkel brand throughout its companies and distribution network.

Van Berkel’s Patent Model A was the first commercially produced slicing machine to come out of the Rotterdam factory in 1898. This somewhat clumsy looking machine is today a museum piece. A hundred years ago it revolutionised the butcher’s trade across Europe, though it was anything but cheap to buy. The price was often more than the total value of the inventory of many a butcher’s business.

After the 1st  World War Van Berkel also started with the production of balances and related products for the butcher and the Food Industry. Sale offices and factories were built in several  countries, in the United States under the name Slicing machine Co. Inc. and in United Kingdom under the name of Berkel Ltd.

Here’s a clip in which Emilio Mitidieri discusses and demos one of his antique Berkel meat slicers on The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels: Cold Cuts”, from his showroom in San Francisco’s Mission district.

There’s also a super-cool animation here demonstrating how a Berkel works !

Charlie the Butcher

Game On

The game season is here and your local butcher’s shop should be stocked up with all things gamey.

You can click on my ‘game‘ sidebar to get information on some of my favourite recipes and to see how to skin a rabbit, or click on the ‘game calender‘ to see what is about and when.

As well as the flavour and value for money here’s why we should all go wild for game …..

Venison contains about half the calories of a chicken breast per portion and also a third of that in pork or beef loin. It also has one of the highest iron contents of any meat (2.4mg per 100g) – almost twice that of beef and two and a half times spinach.  One portion of venison would provide more than quarter of the recommended daily iron intake.

Rabbit contains a third more protein than chicken, 30g per 100g compared with 21g per 100g. But be careful out there, survival experts talk about ‘rabbit starvation’ to describe the fate that befell those forced to live on only this wild meat which contains virtually no fat at only 10% compared with pork at 45% and turkey at 20%. Without any fat or carbohydrate the body can’t metabolise the protein properly so make sure that you eat it with some lovely potatoes and greens.  Rabbit is also low in salt, 33% lower than chicken, and conatins 2.6g of phosphorus, a third of the RDA and 17mcg of selenium per 100g serving.

Quail is als a good choice if you are watching your fat intake, and again an all round more nutritious choice than chicken. 5g fat per 100g serving compared to 16g for a chicken breast.  It als has good quantities of niacin, iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.

Pheasant is one of the richest sources of protein with 41g per 100g serving compared with chicken or turkey (20-30g).  They are also rich in Vitamin B6 with a serving providing 0.74mg, just over a third of the RDA.  It is higher in iron than other fowl and also provides selenium and tryptophan.

Wood Pigeon is high in iron with one serving giving just over a quarter of the RDA,lean beef would give you arund a fifth.  It is also rich in Vitamin B3, niacin.
Charlie the Butcher