If you think it’s bad now, always remember that it can be worse


It was facebook that reminded me, back in 2013 this was the weather we were coping with. At least we’re spared that.

I’ve been trying to get my head round what is happening with beef and lamb trade at the moment. As far as I can make out ‘cock-up’ is more likely that conspiracy.

With the sheep trade it’s obvious that the buyers just stopped buying yesterday. It wasn’t just that prices plummeted, they weren’t even interesting in buying at low prices.

Given the amount of lamb we export, even the rumour that our ‘trading partners’ were closing borders because of corvid 19 was going to cause chaos. Who wants to be left with wagons of expensive lambs? Especially when there is no certainty as to whether you can sell them on, or even if you’ll have enough staff to man the line in the abattoir or how you’ll get the carcasses into France.

With beef there is less uncertainty but things are still going to change. First the restaurants closed, then places like McDonalds. All these take a lot of meat, especially beef, from various ends of the market. But talking to people in the trade they’ve noticed a lot of butchers are taking more beef. Butchers who perhaps took two or three full carcasses a week are having to take four or five to keep up demand. Talking to a local butcher, they are starting to see a lot of supermarket customers in their shop. Not only are they strange faces they don’t recognise, but apparently a butcher can tell from the questions they ask that they’ve only ever bought meat from supermarkets.

Then for those people doing box schemes, apparently it can be difficult to keep up with demand. Makes sense from a customer’s point of view. You get quality produce delivered to the door, and of course you’ll be in to take delivery. It’s not as if you were going anywhere.

To be honest it looks as if the supply chain is frantically trying to keep pace with a fast changing world. A lot of big decisions are being made and they’re being made for serious epidemiological reasons, not for the convenience of any particular industry.

My guess is that over the next week or two it’ll shake down to whatever becomes the new ‘normal.’ On the understanding that this whole situation is going to last at least a year, one way or another, how bedded in is the new normal going to get?
After all with FMD, whilst it screwed up the industry at our end, it didn’t make an awful lot of difference to the consumer. But this time it’s the consumer who is finding their lives changing.

When we come out of this, are people who have finally discovered how to work from homes going to want to continue? Does anybody in their right mind want an hour and a half commute either end of the day? Will their employers who realise they can get away with a third of the office space ensure they do stay working from home? Will government start demanding that strategic industries be located in this country? You know, things like vaccine and drug production, the manufacture of medical technology, perhaps even (Heaven forfend) agriculture? Similarly when the figures come out for the fall in the amount of carbon produced/pollution caused will people be happy for airlines to just go back to what they were. I’ve got a bet on with a mate that they’ll build houses on Heathrow runways 1 and 2 before they ever build a third runway.


Meanwhile back in the real world, isn’t it nice to have fine weather day after day. It’s nice to be able to tidy up after winter. I was cleaning up some branches that had blown down into a silage field and I could watch the pair of swans on the pond at the same time. It’s obvious that they’re settling down to breed. They’ve built the nest and the male obviously has serious territorial issues. He’s spent the last few days trying to drive a pair of Canada Geese off ‘his’ pond. So far the Canadians are hanging on in there, courteous to the last. Still they must be getting sick of him.


Still, what do I know?

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Can’t wait for the next book! Beautifully done.”

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16 thoughts on “If you think it’s bad now, always remember that it can be worse

  1. Stevie Turner March 24, 2020 at 2:10 pm Reply

    Our butcher’s shop in the village is staying open and I’m sure has many more customers. However, they are much more expensive than the supermarkets, but for the moment are more convenient. Only one customer is allowed in at a time, and the rest have to wait outside.

    • jwebster2 March 24, 2020 at 2:16 pm Reply

      Our butcher, like for like, is very competitive with supermarkets. This town still has a lot of good butchers.
      When the horsemeat scandal was brewing I looked at the price of his burgers (made from beef he minced himself) and the price of burgers in Tesco
      Then a week later it broke and i wandered back into tesco. The only burgers they had left were Birds Eye. They were exactly the same price as those our butcher made. This is because they were pure beef like his. All the cheap stuff had gone 🙂

      • Stevie Turner March 24, 2020 at 3:14 pm

        Yes I think our butcher makes his own burgers too. At Christmas he charges around £90 for a turkey. Sainsbury’s had no meat left last week, so I expect I’ll end up buying stuff from there. He’s lovin’ it – business has never been so good!

      • jwebster2 March 24, 2020 at 3:19 pm

        certainly turkeys round here aren’t that price, even from butchers

      • Stevie Turner March 24, 2020 at 3:43 pm

        Yeah, he’s expensive, but the meat is good quality.

      • jwebster2 March 24, 2020 at 4:28 pm

        the two factors may be linked 🙂

  2. teachezwell March 24, 2020 at 3:52 pm Reply

    Thanks for your perspective on the impact of this virus on farming, etc. I think we’re seeing the same run on fresh meat here. Just word of mouth since I haven’t ventured far.

    • jwebster2 March 24, 2020 at 4:29 pm Reply

      I suspect some may be that people have time to cook, but also perhaps they want to avoid the crowds
      And in some places butchers are actually cheaper than supermarkets, quality matched with quality

      • teachezwell March 24, 2020 at 4:56 pm

        Our supermarkets label locally grown, grass fed meats. And they charge more. Much better quality.

      • jwebster2 March 24, 2020 at 7:24 pm

        grass fed has a lot ‘stronger’ flavour. A little bit of grain adds succulence. But entirely grain fed can be tasteless 😦

  3. rugby843 March 24, 2020 at 7:26 pm Reply

    Very interesting post, Jim. Good luck with the lambs.

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Margaret Mair March 24, 2020 at 7:46 pm Reply

    Here in Ontario we’re seeing a run on ground beef, according to someone we know who is in the restaurant business (such as it is, they can only do takeout and many have simply closed). I have no idea why.

    As for swans and geese, we see that fight every spring. The geese would be wise to find another pond. Things get worse once the cygnets hatch, and swans regard goslings as fair game!

    • jwebster2 March 24, 2020 at 8:04 pm Reply

      Yes I suspect we’ll see all sorts of interesting twists and turns 🙂

  5. Widdershins March 25, 2020 at 2:15 am Reply

    I hope that most of the changes ‘stick’ … we’d all be a whole lot better off if they did. 🙂

    • jwebster2 March 25, 2020 at 6:29 am Reply

      certainly a lot of them will be genuine improvements

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