Long gone are the days in the United States where produce markets and local butchers with sawdust floors were the typical meat and produce departments on the corner, almost all gobbled up by national chains and government health regulations meant to benefit big business.
In Mexico however, the tradition of open-air produce markets and corner butcher shops still thrive nationwide as part of a social and cultural experience, but those experiences could become sparser in Puerto Vallarta and along the Bay of Banderas as big grocery moves in and more foreigners comfortable with big grocery retire to the area.
Local butchers say they can no longer compete with the grocery chains like Soriana, Walmart, and Costco who all import frozen meats and buy in bulk with purchasing power. Local butchers try to stay competitive and almost always buy their meats local and fresh, but after paying their business overhead and lowering their prices to stay competitive with chain grocery there is no profit in the business any longer.
Puerto Vallarta is among the fastest growing community of expat retirees in Mexico, mostly foreigners who have never experienced butcher shopping or believe there is a greater health risk to buying from local butchers, this has added to the decline of business in the area and changing the culture of market shopping.
Vallarta Daily News caught up with one foreign shopper, Greg Humphrey, at the Emiliano Zapata Municipal Market. “It took me a while before I felt comfortable buying at the butcher. The chicken looks yellow and the meat is browner than I am used to, but after learning the color difference was because the meats are not treated with dyes or hormones I felt much better. I have been buying from these butchers for the last 4 years and have never had any health issues related to butcher meats,” says Humphrey.
For several years local butchers have proposed regulating the import of meats by local grocery chains and even price regulations to save the local economy and small business. Butchers point out that their meats are purchased locally and when one butcher closes it hurts the entire local supply chain, including the farmers. They warn that if action isn’t taken the chain reaction will choke the entire economy in the region.