Butcher asks customers to cook their own pies after energy costs quadruple in a month

Twin sisters Emma Talic and Zoe McLoughlin run the family business Measures Butchers in Brampton, Cambridgeshire. They are worried about energy bills.
Twin sisters Emma Talic, right, and Zoe McLoughlin, left, run the family business Measures Butchers in Brampton, Cambridgeshire. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A butcher whose energy bill quadrupled in a month is asking customers to cook their own pies to avoid having to put prices up again.

Measures Butchers in Cambridgeshire said soaring costs were the biggest crisis the family business had faced in 38 years.

"It's unprecedented," said Emma Talic, who runs the shop with her twin sister Zoe McLoughlin. "We've faced the BSE crisis, we've faced two recessions, we've faced Covid.

"We've managed to keep going but this is massive for us. The costs are too high for us to keep going."

In October last year, Measures was paying £989 for its energy bills. In November that shot up to £4,220 - more than quadrupling.

The business is no longer making any profit and the sisters fear what will happen when prices rise again in April and the current government support comes to an end.

At the moment, the government's Energy Bills Discount Scheme helps businesses with their bills, effectively capping how much they are charged for gas and electric.

That deal comes to an end in March, with a less generous scheme set to begin in April offering a discount on wholesale prices.

James Cartilidge, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said the government could not afford to "permanently shield" businesses from rising prices.

"We must cap the tax payer's exposure to volatile energy prices," he added. "We've been clear throughout that such level of support was time limited and intended as a bridge to allow businesses to acclimatise. Firms need to adapt and invest in energy efficiency to remain viable."

But at Measures, it already feels like they have reached their limit.

"We're just about rolling over each month," said Mrs Talic. "We're just about covering our costs. It's a really scary time."

The business has been family-run since Christine and Peter Baughen bought the shop in 1984.

Mrs Boughen, who is now in her 70s, still does the books from home while her daughters take care of the shop with help from their children and cousin.

The sisters hope their pies will be just as popular uncooked as they try to cut their energy bills. Credit: ITV News Anglia

They put prices up at the end of last year but, with the cost of living hitting customers too, are reluctant to do it again.

Instead, they are selling their pies raw and asking customers to cook them at home.

"We tried to come up with a solution where we don't have to put up prices and we can still give a good product to people," said Mrs Talic.

Across the border in Northamptonshire, the owner of the Duston Village Bakery is also worried.

In the 11 years since Jenni Smith took over the business, her electric bill alone has gone from around £1,000 a month to, most recently, £4,600 a month.

She wants to see a cap brought in - in the same way domestic energy bills are limited - to help businesses like hers stay afloat.

"Where do we get it from?" she asked. "I can't put a bacon roll up £20 - no one is going to buy one, I will have no customers.

"Our plan is just to break even this financial year. If we can do that, it's a bonus. If not, we will have to take it on the chin and keep praying."

Jenni Smith runs Duston Village Bakery in Northamptonshire where electricity bills have topped £4,000 a month. Credit: ITV News Anglia

With 10 members of staff, Mrs Smith said she had no choice but "to get through it".

"I've got 10 girls to think of," she said. "Their families, their homes, my home, my family."

If the business went under, the village would lose its bakery after 110 years - and its owner could lose her house trying to pay redundancy to her workers, she said.

In the meantime, she is pinning her hopes that the current drop in wholesale gas prices will eventually be reflected in her bills.

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