We knew we wanted to have our calf, lil Belts, slaughtered on-farm. I’d seen social media posts about a mobile butcher. I called him in January. He had a couple of dates left in April and June.
That’s David Bleathman. He’s in demand.
An eastern-shore boy, David got his butchery ticket at Coles supermarket, Eastlands. In 2008, he won the World Skills Australia award for retail butchery. He’s also a qualified carpenter. It’s good to keep your options open right? He started mobile butchery as a sideline in 2010 and went fulltime when he returned south in 2012 after living on the North West Coast for a spell.
One thing I can say about David Bleathman is he is generous with his time. He answers his phone and if he can’t, it’s not long until he gets back to you. In an industry where time is money, he’s happy to talk with you about the ins and outs of on-farm butchery. This was really helpful to us as newbies who wanted to do the best thing by our animoolz.
When it comes to pigs, size does matter, and there’s an upper limit on what David can process on-farm. After consulting an online pig growth calculator, we chose an April date. It ended up that pig was almost too big so we just made it in time.
When we booked, there was a fixed price for the basic butchery of goats, sheep and pigs. Cows have a minimum price and a price per kilo after that. The animoolz are moved into the same enclosure and are shot in rapid succession. Notwithstanding, it’s the first step in the process where David takes the most time, carefully lining up his shot so it’s completed with one bullet. There’s no mucking around here, it has to be done quickly and properly. That’s time well spent.
You hire a mobile cold-store from David to hang the meat for six days until he returns for the cut up.
On our cut up day he arrived without Phil his other butcher, who unfortunately had suffered a heart attack earlier. ‘It’s amazing what he’ll do to get out of work.’ We all hope Phil is now on the mend. Instead he had the help of his wife, Mel.
They live in Port Huon. For our purposes, that meant a small out-of-area fee for the work. For their purposes, it meant they were out of bed at 3 am to be at #Blissfarm to start work by 4.30 am.
Why so early? It’s cooler and starting early means an early knock-off.
Picture this. David is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Mel has on a shirt, puffer jacket and polar-fleece. David gets right down to business. Mel is more than a little pleased to be offered a cup of coffee for her early morning kickstart. David pulls sides of meat off hooks and expertly feeds them through the hacksaw attached to the back of his custom-built truck. Mel bags and labels meat, makes mince and works with David to churn out kilos of sausages.
David has a blend of herbs for his sausages and there’s a minimum of 10 kilos. You can provide the ingredients for two other types of sausages and he’ll process those for you.
Watching the couple work was incredible. They work like a well-oiled machine. I asked him why he’s made a meal of mobile butchery.
‘The only thing I hate about my work is killing the animal. It will be the thing that eventually turns me into a vegetarian,’ David said.
I mumble in jest to Mel, ‘Like when he looses his teeth.’ She giggles. But that’s David Bleathman, he believes in ethical meat production; respect for the animal and low-stress slaughter. That’s why we’re happy we chose him and he chose us.
A few things we learnt:
- Don’t freeze fresh sausages, they need a couple of days to settle.
- Wrapping meat in freezer bags and then newspaper will provide better insulation and longer life in the freezer. It also stops the parcels from sticking to each other.
- Rotating your meat in the freezer will ensure they freeze consistently.
- Leave your ham in brine for 4-7 days to cure it then boil it until its internal temperature is 65 degrees. Smoking meat is similar, it’s hot-smoked until the same internal temperature.
- The bloke who makes a living out of butchery has a soft spot – his wife’s name is tattooed on his forearm. Sweet!
Find David on Facebook – David Bleathman Mobile Butcher
Here’s our post on the cut up day – #Blissfarm – 1.Action