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A dog’s breakfast, lunch, dinner

David Topp in 2007. PHOTO/MICHAEL WOODCOCK COLLECTION, WAIRARAPA ARCHVIE

BECKIE WILSON

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Dogs were champing at the bit 40 years ago for what was believed to be New Zealand’s first dog roll — a revolutionary invention that still lives on.

The first non-refrigerable dog roll was born out of a collaboration of three rural Wairarapa blokes in the early 1970s.

The last of the “Chunky” dog roll founders, David Topp, 88, died on September 22, but farmers, and his son, continue to buy the product today.

The beauty of the dog roll was it didn’t need to be chilled or frozen — it had a long shelf life.

In 1973, Topp, along with Rusty Thomas and Graham Nathan, established Wairarapa Farm Meats.

The business allowed farmers to truck in their older sheep, known as dog tucker, to be slaughtered and frozen for dog food.

With its high percentage of meat, the dog roll was an appealing concept for farmers who didn’t have to slaughter their own dog tuckers.

The next year, the dog roll, called “Chunky” at the time, was created with the help of a Massey University scientist.

Not long after, Wairarapa By Products was established using waste products from Wairarapa Farm Meats.

Both businesses were based at Waingawa, now JNL, and employed a significant number of Wairarapa people.

Cattle with bovine Tuberculous [TB] could also be slaughtered there – the first facility of its kind.

Masterton’s Brid Morris, bought the Wairarapa Farm Meats business in the 1980s and expanded it where he could.

Brid died last year, but Peter, who managed the business for his brother, remembers the business’ thriving days.

Peter Morris, a national equestrian icon and judge, said there was a lot of hype when the dog roll was first produced – something new and convenient for dog-owners.

He recalls the dog roll invention was an “off-shoot” product using the abundant left-over offal.

The convenience of dog roll was alluring to the townies, he said.

It was relatively expensive, given the manufacturing process, but because it was quite dense, only a small piece needed to be fed to a dog for each meal, Peter said.

He can vaguely remember the cooking process of the dog roll which involved offal going into a big mincer, then into a big mixer bowl where additives were added, including garlic powder and sugar.

The mix was then put into a thick sausage skin before being boiled for a few hours.

At the businesses’ peak, “tonnes and tonnes” of offal was regularly trucked in from other freezing works to keep up with demand, he said.

“It was a big operation,” Peter Morris said.

Clive Cooper, who worked for Brid, said not many people knew the recipe – “it was kept a good secret,” he said.

David Topp was as someone who strived for a challenge but was never money-driven, his son Mason said at his funeral last week.

He made friends easily,  and was a true animal-lover.

He grew up in Gisborne and left school at the age of 15, starting work as a stock drover, before moving onto shepherding and farm management jobs.

After marrying Wairarapa-local, Molly Moore, he moved to the region and managed her family farm, Eparaima Station, near Riversdale.

His love for the stock-to-plate approach saw him buy Masterton’s Eastside Butchery, and the Greytown Butchery, in the late 1970s.

He farmed a block of land in east Taratahi until the late 1990s.

In his later years, Topp was known for his large bottle collections.

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