A BUTCHERS that has only been operating for three years has been crowned winner of The Northern Echo's Best Butcher Award.

The Tunstall Meat Company on Reeth Road in Richmond fought off strong competition to clinch the award, run by the D&S Times' sister paper, which co-director Helen Bell said was a 'massive boost' for the staff during the busy December period.

All the beef, pork and lamb in the butchers is supplied by its local farm, Tunstall's near Catterick, and Helen believes that customers knowing the origin of their food and the fact that the animals are reared in natural conditions has helped the business flourish.

She said: "I think people are caring a lot more where their meat comes from these days.

"People might be eating a bit less meat so when they do they want to splash out a bit and get something special, not that we're particularly expensive anyway.

"Our animals are outdoor reared, grass-fed, slowly matured and we don't feed them any rubbish so it is about as good as you can get with meat and how it's reared."

And despite having to contend with the Covid restrictions and lockdowns of the last two years, the business has gone from strength to strength which has enabled the farm to grow in size.

Elements such as launching a website and running a delivery service, free with minimum orders of £20, have helped to keep the business buoyant.

Helen said: "With lockdown and everything the deliveries proved quite vital to people, certainly those up the Dales who are very isolated, and that is how we really got busy, along with the development of a website."

The firm delivers as far north as Newton Aycliffe, west as far as Reeth, east as far as Northallerton and south down to Masham.

Helen added: "We didn't feel confident at all that we would win the award, obviously with being quite a new butchers and we were against some very well established butchers with big names and a big following.

"It is absolutely wonderful for us."

Helen also wished to thank Sam Lumb and Megan Mulholland who run the farm and are now experts in sustainable and regenerative farming methods.

Second place in the Echo awards went to W Alderson & Son in Cockerton, Darlington and Hutchinson Hobbs in Castlelevington, Yarm came third.