Dewhurst, the UK's biggest chain of butchers, has closed 60 outlets and called in administrators to help it sell its 35 remaining stores.
In its heyday Dewhurst had 1,400 outlets
Administrators BDO Stoy Hayward said it had to close 60 unprofitable stores in order to try to secure a sale of the rest of the group.
The Tunbridge Wells-based company employs 600 staff nationwide.
Back in 1977 Dewhurst had 1,400 UK outlets, but it has since struggled to compete with supermarket meat counters.
Poor trading conditions
West Country butchers firm Lloyd Maunder bought control of Dewhurst from its private equity owners early in 2005 and spent money refurbishing a number of stores and reorganising the chain's supply systems.
The company said it had been hit by increases in rent and energy prices, and then had seen a "substantial" decline in trading conditions over the last six months.
In a statement, the company said: "Despite our best efforts and the application of experience gained in running our own chain of butcher's shops, the recent trading conditions have proved to be much worse than those we had anticipated.
"We can no longer justify the much heavier investment being demanded by Dewhurst's bankers to support this operation. We ourselves are the principal creditor involved."
Independent butchers now hold just 13.8% of the £5.4bn retail market, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.