London’s Smithfield Market

If you’re a market nerd and lover of quirky architecture like me, you’ll love visiting this slightly-off-the-tourist-path gem in London. It’s just a stroll from St. Paul’s (walk down Leather Lane on weekdays to check out the vendors and few food trucks) and near the Barbican and Farringdon tube stations. Go early to see the action–the market closes at 7am. If you miss opening hours, like I did, you can still walk down the wide main corridor and read the informational signs describing the history, and marvel at the architecture and colors. If you want to learn more about Smithfield Market, read on…

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market is the largest and oldest wholesale meat market in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe. Also called London Central Markets, it houses a wide central aisle flanked by 43 temperature-controlled stalls. The market opens at 3am to sell meat, poultry, cheese, and some prepared foods mostly to London restaurants, caterers, and hotels, but anyone may shop there.

Smithfield Market

The site of Smithfield (from “smooth field” for grazing animals) Market has housed a livestock market for over 1000 years–in addition to hosting witch burnings and executions. Before trains, fresh meat arrived at the market on foot, losing valuable weight over the journey. It was estimated that a cow walking 100 miles would lose 20 pounds along the way. Animals began arriving by rail in the mid-1800s, and in the 1868, the current market buildings opened, designed by City Architect Sir Horace Jones, who also designed Tower Bridge. The railroad ran directly beneath the building, allowing for easy transfer of meat from trains to the refrigerated vending stalls, and facilitating movement of fresh meat to consumers around the country.

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market may see some big changes soon, as plans have been submitted to the City of London to convert the market into a mixed used commercial development, with restaurants and retail on the ground floor, topped by six levels of offices. This is not terribly surprising; the prime location is amidst tourist and business districts.

Smithfield Market

The market is open on weekdays from 3am to 7am, but visitors may walk down the central avenue and read the historical signs at any time of day. The area around the market is full of shops, bars, and restaurants, far from what you’d expect to see surrounding a livestock market. It’s worth a visit; I’m looking forward to seeing the market in action next trip!


Cheers! (i.e., British kudos)

A couple shout-outs from HP’s recent trip to London…

Marks and Spencer’s Forever Fish campaign:

M&S has had a sustainable fishing policy for 12 years and 84% of the wild fish sold at M&S is now independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or undergoing MSC certification. But now M&S wants to take it further – and that is where Forever Fish comes in. Through partnerships with WWF and Marine Conservation Society, education programmes in primary schools and Fish of the Month promotions, the plan is to take the lead to make sure our sea life is protected for future generations to enjoy.

and Chop’d, which uses local ingredients where possible:

Wherever possible we work with the seasons. Every September we take the van down to Kent to pile it full of heirloom apples from Brogdale Farm, home of the National Fruit Collection. Every spring we gather bagfuls of wild garlic from the woods of West Sussex.

All our chicken comes from a single farm on the Essex/Suffolk border, is barn reared and meets farm-assured and ‘red tractor’ standards.

There’s a farm in London?

Today, Haute Pasture went on a field trip to Hackney City Farm, which is actually located within the city of London. From their About page:

For over 20 years, Hackney City Farm has been giving the local community the opportunity to experience farming right in the heart of the city.

It offers an opportunity for children and adults to get up close to a range of farmyard animals and to learn about where their food comes from and why that matters.

Britons seem to be much more concerned with the source of their food than Americans, and maybe programs like Hackney City Farm have a lot to do with that. It’s important to remind people that animal products come from animals, and not machines. The disgusting people involved in the recently-exposed abuse at the Iowa pig factory apparently never learned that lesson.

Some pictures from the quaint little urban farm:

hackney city farm


hackney sheep

hackney chickens

hackney duck

hackney poultry