Express & Star

Generational butchers talk about quality of products and importance of service

It's a week celebrating the best of British for traditional butchers and their pies.


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For 2024, National Pie Week and National Butchers Week are running concurrently, between March 4 and March 10, providing those at the sharp end with an opportunity to showcase their wares to the public.

National Butchers Week was created to draw attention to the traditional skills and values of local butchers, especially in an age dominated by supermarket chains.

The event seeks to highlight the uniqueness, personal touch, and commitment to quality that local butchers bring to the table, ensuring they remain a valued part of their communities.

British Pie Week began as a marketing campaign by a pastry-making company but has evolved into a national celebration.

It encourages everyone, from home bakers to professional chefs, to bake, eat, and relish pies, whether it’s a traditional steak and ale pie, a sweet apple pie, or inventive new fillings.

For butchers across the region, it is a week which also acts as a boost, being in the lead-up to Mother's Day, as well as helping showcase their best meats and products.

It also shows the family-run traditions, with many being shops that have run through the generations and continue to be as popular now as when they first opened.

Among the family-run traditional butchers celebrating the two weeks are WT Hill & Sons in Walsall, Martin Thomas in Pattingham and Michael Kirk in Wolverhampton, all of which are run by the descendants of the founders.

Ashley Hill said weeks like National Pie and National Butchers were important as they helped showcase the industry

Ashley Hill is the fifth generation of the family to run WT Hill & Sons in Walsall, which was founded by William Thomas in 1888, and said the reason it was still popular and relevant now was due to being able to change with the times.

He said: "It's a changeable industry and there are more modern ways of cutting different cuts of meat, different flavourings are coming out and we're doing more ready-prepared food as not everybody just wants a pork chop dinner anymore.

"People are looking for something a little bit different and with more variety and we offer as much variety as we've ever offered before and I think that helps people as they might think we've only got a certain amount of things on show, but we can show them the other things on offer.

"We'll be doing different sausages each week, as well as different types of kebabs and burgers and different marinated meats, so we have just adapted to the times."

For Craig Thomas, who is the sixth generation of the Martin Thomas family, which opened in the 1830s in Cradley Heath and went to Pattingham in 1971, the reason for the popularity of the shop was the quality of the food, with the shop having won international awards for its black pudding and pork pies.

Craig Thomas said all his products were locally sourced and treated with care

He said: "I believe it's due to the quality and the fact that people know where the meat is from as far as traceable because of having our own farm for sheep and cattle in the village and another farm in Claverley for the same, as well as the fact that 90 per cent of the pigs we have come from Pattingham.

"We are very local and we can say as well that if somebody wanted to see where the animal came from, they can go past the farm and see how they were treated.

"We make everything ourselves, from curing our own dry cured bacon to the old fashioned processes to the boiled hams which are dry-cured and cooked in their own juices, and our pies contain only select cuts of meat and have our own seasoning on them."

At Michael Kirk Butchers, Michael Bachyk is the third-generation of the family which started with Albert Kirk in 1934 on Queen Street in the city centre, before moving the shop onto Woolpack Alley.

Michael has been the owner since 2005 and said the products spoke for themselves for why people kept coming back.

He said: "I think it's the personal touch which is most important as well as the quality of the product and trying to keep everything to the standard we have maintained.

"Since I took over, we have developed the business and brought in more products as, initially, Michael sold lots of fresh meat and very few pies and pastries, whereas we've seen the tastes change and develop over time.

"Those changes now include ready meals, with pies being one of the biggest sellers, while we also sell a lot of sausages, which weren't made as much in the older days, but have as times have changed."

Michael Bachyk said the pies from Michael Kirk were the most popular sellers

All three said that butchery was very much an artform and a tradition that they were thrilled to be able to showcase as part of the two weeks and spoke about what they considered to be their top products.

Ashley Hill said: "I think the best products we have our own homemade products, of which we are most proud of the sausages, pies, pastries and the dry-cured bacon, which we mostly source locally.

"Weeks like this are massively important with it being possibly a bit of a dying industry and so getting as much exposure as we can on it is great as there's enough big chains on the high street that are struggling, let alone little independent places, so I think it should be celebrated."

Craig Thomas said: "As mentioned, our pork pies all have just choice cuts of meat and are seasoned with our own seasoning and flavours and our black pudding, which was created from a commercially available blend in 1997 and has become our own unique recipe.

"These weeks are very important as they are in the run up to Mothers Day, so you get a lot more people wanting to impress their mother and get better cuts for the weekend, as well as the better weather coming."

Michael Bachyk said: "I think the products most like from us are the pies and pastries and people like to come and buy those from Michael Kirk as we are very well-known across the country for that.

"It's important for us as it brings the industry to the forefront and it's worth remembering that we're not just here for Christmas when everyone wants a turkey, but we are here 52 weeks a year from early morning to late at night to give you the best products."

To find out more about National Butchers Week, go to

To find out more about National Pie Week, go to