The struggle behind a Bexley butcher's success
PUBLISHED: 09:31 11 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:31 11 April 2014
Richard Douglas is the proud maker of Britain's best burger and the owner of an award-winning meat produce company. But it hasn't been an easy journey for the Bexley butcher.
Four years ago Richard’s son, Jake, developed a rare brain condition that threatened his life.
Jake, now aged seven, had been diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a rare type of brain tumour that is only developed by two in every 100,000 people.
Two years after diagnosis, the NHS sent Jake and parents Richard and Amy to the United States for three months to receive a special type of radiotherapy called proton therapy.
The life-saving treatment meant that Mr Douglas, of Sherwood Park Avenue, Blackfen, had to give up his job as a butcher.
He said: “When we found out we could travel to the US for treatment we were very happy because it meant my son could receive the treatment he needed. It was a three-month journey though so obviously I had to quit my job.”
This meant that, on returning home, Richard was at a loose end for employment.
When looking for work he noticed there was a gap in the market for high-end meat products that are locally and ethically sourced.
He said: “I realised there was a demand for more artisanal meat products in the area that wasn’t being satisfied so I thought, rather than work for someone else as a butcher, I might as well set up my own business.”
In November, Richard found a butcher’s shop in Main Road, Sidcup, which had closed down.
He bought and refurbished it into his now award-winning business, Carnivore Foods Limited.
He said: “It’s ideal really as this high road is one of the few remaining where there is a strong passing trade and there is a big interest in food these days in terms of where it comes from so we’ve done really well.”
As the business has developed so have the skills in making its produce.
Last month the firm entered the National Meat Products Awards in Birmingham, entering both the burger and sausage categories.
Eight varieties of sausage and two varieties of burger were entered, picking up eight gold awards and two silver.
In addition the firm’s chilli steak burger was voted a category winner meaning it is Britain’s best.
Not content with national glory, Richard and his nephew Ryan Douglas, 21, who works with him at Carnivore, entered the south-east of England regional meat awards and again had success.
Among the honours was a personal accolade for Ryan who became Champion Young Sausage Maker for the second time with his honey and mustard sausages. He won four years ago with a venison and red wine variety.
Richard is proud of his achievements.
He said: “I started doing this when I was 13 and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since then. It’s a bit of an art really and I just want us to be the best butchers we can be.”
Mr Douglas is now planning to move into making biltong, a cured meat snack originating from South Africa.
He said: “A friend of mine is a champion biltong maker and I’ve recently been out there to visit him and see how he does it.
“I even brought back some of the special equipment needed so hopefully we’ll be producing that soon.”