How does a young man with a chemistry major and a career in a suit at a major construction firm go to running an small scale, ethical abattoir, making Weisswurst for a group of Hobart foodies, and opening a butcher’s?
It’s all got to do with project management, a fair share of gumption, and a passion is for ethically sourced and butchered meat.
Tasmanian James Lord, had been chained to an office on Melbourne’s Collins Street and was pining to come home. One day he returns and finds the Cradoc Hill Abattoir a little tired, but on the market. With no experience in the meat industry or running his own business he threw himself headlong into the void.
Project management is my trade and this is just another project. I need staff. I need to understand quality. I need to understand the technical stuff, all the cost parameters…
A long term believer in quality produce, James believed the time was ripe to market Tasmanian produce more effectively.
That’s not just about putting a Tasmanian label on a product and saying that’s from Tassie it’s good. Everything is from somewhere but the quality of the product needs to stand out. It also means understanding our strengths and playing on them.
For James this has manifest through happy animals on happy farms slaughtered with as little stress as possible.
The cornerstone of his business is service work at Cradoc Hill Abattoir. This includes slaughter for local butchers and ‘community kills’ where they provide a service for people who keep animals they can live off – one pig or one sheep or five cattle. Cradoc Hill will slaughter and package up these.
The Two Girls were pleased to be part of a tour of the abattoir organised by Slow Food Hobart some time ago now and got some great insight the production process. We won’t go into the all the details because livestock slaughter in not for the faint hearted but there were a few interesting tit bits.
Cradoc Hill was built in the late 1980s by the Griggs family from salvaged materials. The yards are undercover which is important for caring for stock in the Tasmanian weather.
We get stock in the night before so they can settle down after the transport and empty out if they’re full of grass because it can affect the meat if they haven’t digested it all it can make the meat a little more acidic and it doesn’t keep as well.
Social animals take some time to get used to their neighbours so to keep animals calm they don’t mix pens either.
There’s more than meets the eye in chilling meat too. Meat can’t be chilled too fast or the muscle tenses up and makes it less palatable.
For the last couple of years, James has been learning the art of smallgoods production. James demonstrated the process of making Weisswurst sausages including the spinning of meat at around 3000 rpm. Blades positioned close to the bowl continually cut the meat until it is whipped and whipped and becomes a creamy product. It’s an emulsion which is quite firm, gluey and stiff but there are no glues added and it’s about 25 per cent fat. They get filled out into a natural sausage casing into a 35 mm casing. They’re par-cooked just to set the meat and sterilise it to 68 degrees and then into iced water to cool down. They keep two or three weeks in a cryovac bag.
James invited us into his home to try these fresh, delicious sausages along with bread, salads and wine. Very paddock to plate.
The newest part is Huon Valley Meat Co, West Hobart, where he has been selling fresh meat since November 2015. This West Hobart butcher’s is a place of beauty with pressed tin awnings, a window of hanging lamb carcasses, century-old chopping blocks and space. Clean, neutral lines abound. The glass cabinet is filled with beautiful cuts including those you can only get when you butcher a whole animal, and a bookshelf of cookbooks celebrating meat.
James and business collaborator, Ally, wear the aprons of old-fashioned butchers and engage customers with interest – how will they cook the meat they want, for others, tips on how to cook the meat they’re buying. On our visit we noticed a lot of men in the shop and we asked if this casual observation had any science. Apparently, blokes on their cooking night head to Huon Valley Meat Co for a good cut of meat and information on how to prepare it.
The sources of meat vary. The pork is from happy pigs in the Huon, lamb and beef can come further afield. In the midst of controversy on how free-range is free-range, they are sourcing whole chickens from Bannockburn in Victoria and Peachester Farm in Queensland, who they are most satisfied are delivering an *ethical product. They’re also selling their own small goods along with some international classics.
Cradoc Hill Abattoir has received organic certification. Ally is finishing off her ticket in meat inspection, still a rare career path for women. To spread the Huon Valley Meat Co ethic about ethical meat, Ally has got herself on the Board of the TFGA’s Meat Council and the Cattle Council of Australia.
* Just prior to posting the Two Girls heard that Ally has moved on from Huon Valley Meat Co. We wish her well in her future ventures.
Huon Valley Meat Co is no gimmick, it’s delivering social change on meat production and consumption.
Find the shopfront at 89 Goulburn Street, West Hobart.
Here’s the facebook page – Huon Valley Meat Co.
Keep an eye out on our post on what we made with our goodies from our visit.