In this post David Matchett, the Market Development Manager, explores the role of offal at Borough Market.
Here at Borough Market, we love a bit of offal. Browse our butchery stalls and you’ll find them packed with livers and lights, hearts and heads. Partly, this is because our shoppers tend to be pretty serious about cooking and eating, and there’s nothing they enjoy more than the earthy joys of good offal. But the presence here of lots of undervalued cuts of meat is more than a matter of taste — it is an essential part of our philosophy.
The thing is, we don’t just sell great food — we promote an alternative system of food production, one which has sustainability at its heart. Through my role as development manager, my job is to ensure that the values of the Market are given a tangible presence out there in our trading areas, and that means carefully seeking out traders whose approach to production is both ethical and sustainable, while refusing to compromise on the taste and quality of their products.
When it comes to meat, we place an emphasis on pasture-fed animals, high standards of welfare and a low tolerance of waste. The sale of offal is absolutely central to this. Most of our meat stalls are run by the producers themselves, and for them, selling even the murkiest parts of the carcass is both an economic necessity and a mark of respect to the proud and well cared-for animal that produced them.
One of my favourite uses of offal at the Market is in the sheftalia served up by Gourmet Goat — not only do these traditional Greek-Cypriot kid goat sausages make use of some underappreciated off-cuts, but the kid goats themselves are usually treated as a waste product within the dairy industry, killed and disposed of at birth.
The sheftalia are served with piccalilli made from surplus Market veg — one of many instances of our traders using their creativity to find other ways of cutting down on food waste. Rubies in the Rubble makes chutneys and jams, Chegworth Valley creates its famous juices, Comptoir Gourmand uses stale croissants to make bread and butter pudding.
As an institution, we practice what we preach. Since 2014, Borough Market has contributed in a big way to the FoodSave campaign — a food waste reduction project through which left over produce is gathered up and distributed to a selection of good causes. At the start, donations from traders were limited to fruit, veg and bread, but we have now invested in the storage equipment necessary for meat, fish and dairy to be included in these weekly collections.
Of the remaining food waste generated here, more than 80 per cent is now processed through anaerobic digestion. Right now, we’re even looking at turning waste coffee grounds into fuel.
At this year’s lunch, our intention is to give people a genuine taste of the Market in such a way that our values —great food, sustainably produced — are right there on your plate. We have long been aware of the important work and wide influence of the Oxford Symposium. Now we’ll get a chance to feed you while sharing something of our philosophy. Put simply: we want you to eat our words.