Asda has taken on Morrisons by reintroducing butcher counters to its stores seven years after pulling the plug on them.

The retailer began the rollout, dubbed the Fresh meat Counters Project, late last year. It has already launched the counters in 33 stores and plans to open a further 17 this year.

In 2003, Asda closed its 31 butcher counters and switched to centrally packed meat.

The retailer had decided to reintroduce the counters because of a change in shopping habits, said a spokeswoman.

“The counters didn’t work in all stores before so it made sense at the time to take them out,” she said. “However during the last year or two, customers have been asking for them because many have returned to traditional ways of cooking.”

The counters would give the stores a big “halo effect”, despite the fact they were costly to run, said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black. “Butchers are not cheap and the counters create more waste, but Asda is lacking a bit of theatre compared to retailers such as Morrisons,” he said.

“Meat is one of the core reasons why people visit stores and they do a lot of shopping around that so they will drive footfall, which raises the question as to whether Asda should have got rid of them in the first place.”

In August, Asda teamed up with McGee’s and launched butchers concessions in its Northern Ireland stores.