Would you buy meat from a tweet?
It’s Friday afternoon in the office. You’re watching the clock tick down to five o’clock, skimming through your Twitter feed. And there it is, “The goats have arrived!” With a quick flurry of messages you’ve booked yourself a whole goat. A couple of hours later and a man with a van slaps the carcass down on your kitchen table. How did this happen?
But this is exactly what my friend Hannah did, ordering a goat via the social networking site Twitter.
Get your goat: Cabrito's product shortly after delivery.
Post-delivery she did have to enlist help to cut it up and turn it in to a roast, mince and chops, but being that close to the provenance of food I think is a joy for most cooks.
Buying your meat online is nothing new – top butchers and farmers have been sending boxes of vac-packed meat by post for years. And you can source almost any culinary delight on Twitter, but ordering meat on Twitter is, I think, a bespoke service, putting you and me, the customer on a pedestal – a rare find for the average Joe in the mass market world.
When you’re surrounded by the polystyrene, shrinkwrapped world of supermarket meat, making contact with characterful and quality producers combined with the convenience of door-to-door delivery and the excitement of a limited time offer is compelling.
Of course there’s the question of trust. Is it safe to buy something you’ve never seen? Are there the same proven hygiene standards that you’d have in a shop? And how do you compare the quality to other offerings?
These aren’t fly-by-night cowboy operators. They’re proper businesses with reputations on the line. And the great thing about social networks is that you can see exactly who’s buying or who isn’t.
Marky Market is a personal meat shopper for Londoners, who heads down to Smithfield market every morning before dawn to stock up on the best cuts of meat for his clients.
In last night's programme The Meat Market: Inside Smithfield on BBC Two, he has created a bespoke delivery ordering service. “I use the tube, with my trolley, with freezer blocks and chiller boxes, and deliver it as soon as I can to people’s offices,” he says.
He then uses Twitter to sell the meat he has left at the end of his delivery run, keeping his costs to a minimum. “Loads of spares today, all sausages. Old spot, wild boar, merguez, lamb & mint. £5 for half a kilo, £10 for a kilo. Soho office, lunchtime.”
He also supplies his clients with fish from Billingsgate. “Anyone fancy tuna loin?” says the tweet.
He says: “Because of the minimum amounts I have to buy, if there’s any left over that’s when I get on Twitter and sell the overs down at my Soho office.”
Unsurprisingly, he’s not the only one using the power of social media to sell meat. Former River Cottage chef James Whetlor is behind Cabrito, a Somerset goat meat distributor which is aiming to change that with a “reliable, high quality supply” of billy kid goats, and the firm that supplied my friend Hannah.
Personally I’ve never particularly enjoyed buying meat. Cooking and eating it, yes. But buying, no. So could buying it from Twitter be the way forward for cooks like me, who don’t really like getting their hands dirty and who love an impulse buy?
Have you bought meat you’ve heard about on social media? Would you buy without seeing it first? How trustworthy would a source have to be for you to take the chance?