Launching a new business is a hard task. Launching a family business that transcends multiple generations is even harder. Matthew Alden is the current Managing Director of seventh-generation Oxford-based butchers, Aldens Oxford. While the company might have a long history to reflect on, he’s firmly looking to the future.
Established in 1793 by Isaac Alden, Aldens began at Eastwyke farm, a working farm and slaughterhouse near where Four Pillars now stands. In those early days, the farmhouse was surrounded by fields and Cornmarket full of butchers shops.
Oxford Covered Market was launched in 1774, to house butchers under one roof and clear ‘untidy, messy and unsavoury stalls’ from the main streets of central Oxford. Aldens moved with it and opened a shop within the market. The business grew and rates increased, leading Aldens to exit the Covered Market in favour of larger, less expensive, more accessible space at Osney Mead in November of last year.
University of Gloucester and Leiths graduate, Matthew, took over from his father in 2003. Since then, Matthew has grown the team from 7 to 80, while focussing on reinvesting heavily back into the business; a business that has never deviated from fresh meat, but has expanded to include Haymans Fisheries and Osney Food Shed. In addition to this, they have additional square footage available for expansion – part of which is used entirely for recycling.
As well respected catering butchers by trade…
…and suppliers to many renowned restaurants and colleges from London to Manchester, Aldens run a fleet of vans making around 200 deliveries a day. In addition to this, they serve up to 1200 people per week in their Osney Mead shops – Meatmaster and Osney Food Shed.
The meat factory itself is like a carnivore’s dream: 4 walk-in, dry-age fridges, full of ribs; plus a huge meat fridge in the demo kitchen, where they host regular butchery classes. The demo kitchen is dotted with memorabilia from seven generations; a beautiful sign from the original Covered Market shop, commissioned in 1938, leans casually against one wall. A 1953 menu with prices, and a Penny Farthing – of all things – are tucked away in a corner.
Looking to the future, Matthew wants to deliver the most perfect product from the right places. He plans to continue investing back into the business, and aims to produce 95% of their energy from recycled and renewable sources. Judging by how far they’ve come and how focused Matthew is, I wouldn’t put it past them.
If you haven’t visited their shops yet, you’ll find a huge selection of meats, fish and more.
In addition to the shops, they have a fish restaurant above Osney Food Shed. Fish4Lunch opens Tuesday – Saturday 12noon – 3pm, and Fridays from 11.30am – 3pm; offering a micro menu of seasonal, freshly prepared mains for around £5/6 each, and their popular ‘Fish & Chip Friday’.
Matthew treated me to a selection of samples from Chef Kuba during my visit, and I can safely say I’ll be back for more. Full review to follow, of course!