Chris Cierpik, owner of Rare Meat Butchers of Southville, has been a butcher for 34 years. After leaving school, he was unsure of what career path he would take, but it was his love of food that eventually led him to becoming a catering butcher. “I left school with no qualifications,” he says, leaning on the counter of his shop one busy weekday morning. “There was a lot of unemployment back then, and all I knew was that I’d always liked food.”
Chris opened his first shop in Portishead, after over a decade of supplying restaurants as a catering butcher, and has now been in his current location on North Street since 2010. Rare Butchers has won ‘best local butcher’ at Bristol Good Food Awards for the past three years in a row.
“North Street is a such a great location,” Chris says, breaking off to serve customers with a genuine smile as they come through the door. “It’s proper Bristol. A lot of people are very aware of what is going on with factory farming and realise that they have been robbed by corporate business for long time.
“We are dealing with passionate people that operate free-range farms, where there is great care for the animal. For example, Waitrose have this ‘happy pigs’ leaflet, and it says that their ‘happy pigs’ travel no more than four hours from farm to abattoir. Our pigs travel for no more that 30 minutes, so I was quite astonished to see that they thought that would be good enough to print. You can imagine what their unhappy pigs are doing.
“We love food: we’re all passionate here. And we’re all honest about everything we do – there’s nothing in here without a stamp for the local abattoir, who we’ve known for 30 years. They are a great asset to the community.”
Community spirit is something that’s also very important to Chris, along with the quality of the produce he sells.
“Food brings people together. People come here, especially on Saturdays, and they’re talking about it in the streets. What a dull experience it is going to a supermarket, and what a soulless place, in comparison to a place like this!” Chris says. “Down this street we have Mark’s Bread, a lovely fruit and veg shop across the road, an actual deli – and every single coffee shop on this street uses local produce.
“I challenge anyone to forget their supermarket for one weekend and come to North Street to do their shopping. It is a different league, and it is such a refreshing experience with so many independent traders.”
Talk turns back to meat, and as we wrap up the conversation, Chris wraps up a choice cut and presses it into my hands, insisting I taste the difference between his meat and that from a supermarket.
“When you compare factory meats to free range, the first thing that really stands out is the taste,” Chris says. “You think to yourself, ‘Why does it taste so much better?’ It is because the meat is ethically produced, and I am so pleased that in recent years it has gathered momentum.
“I think this will continue. There was a time when things looked quite sad on North Street – when it looked like it would be full of these chains stores like KFC and Greggs and all that nastiness. But now there’s a change. Hopefully this street might inspire other streets.”
Rare Butchers of Southville
250 North Street, BS3 1JD
0117 966 3593