Bénévent’s butchers specialized in lamb in the 19th century. This activity, which was run by a few of the town’s renowned families, largely structured and galvanized life in Bénévent. It boosted the local economy and stimulated the establishment of annex businesses such as tanneries. In 1816, there were no less than 20 butchers in this town of 1.400 inhabitants.
Bénévent’s butchers’ reputation came from the quality of their meat preparation and presentation skills. The Bénévent stamp was considered a token of quality by fellow butchers, thanks to the care put into their trade. The finest meats they produced were sent to up markets in Paris. The rest of their production went to Lyon, Bordeaux or Roubaix, and the less noble parts of their production were used to enhance local cuisine.
In the 19th century, each butcher had his own slaughterhouse, which often had questionable hygiene. The entire town had insalubrity issues. A municipal slaughterhouse was therefore created in 1913, to cope with the expansion of the butchery business, to improve hygiene and inspection conditions, to respect new legislation as well as to decontaminate the town.
In the 1930s, nearly 30.000 Bénévent lambs were sent up to Paris markets per year. The production remained steady until 1960.
However, at the dawn of the 1980s, the slaughterhouse was no longer up to date, and had to be shut down. Today, the building is home to a chestnut wood slat-making business.
Bénévent’s sheep industry declined because of this closure, as did other companies who were dependent of this activity.
Nowadays, Bénévent has revived the tradition thanks to its « Moutonnades », a celebration which takes place each year on August 24th, on Saint Bartholomew’s Day. Bartholomew, the patron saint of Bénévent’s church, is also the patron saint of the butchery and tannery trades.