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Reaching the cutoff point

Logan Atkinson is retiring after 35 years as a butcher. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE

After more than 35 years in the industry, Logan Atkinson is hanging up his butcher’s knife.

The Eketahuna man picked up the skill while working abroad in England as a relief worker.

He had a fair idea of what to do, but no formal training.

“We were doing all sorts of things,” he said.

Returning to Wairarapa as a shearer and dairy farmer, he developed good connections with the region’s cockies, a colloquial term for dairy farmers.

He soon realised there was a market for buying lambs which had died of natural causes for cheap and selling on their skins.

“When we bought the sheep, all we wanted was the skins.

“We always picked up slinkies.”

He said it was nothing to get 3000 lamb skins in one go.

Atkinson was also adept at possum trapping and would also sell on their skins.

“We used to do a lot of possum trapping. All the kids in Eketahuna used to bring them to me,” he said.

A-grade possum skins could sell for $24 he said and one weekend he collected close to 140 from a spot near Pahiatua.

This was back in the day when wool prices were still strong, and the possum trapping industry was more popular.

“Wool was worth money then.

“We were getting money for skins and now we’re getting nothing.

“It all crashed and is by the wayside.”

He used to give away the lamb carcasses to farmers for dog tucker before realising that there was another selling opportunity.

“We stopped skinning slinks and we ended up getting better money just selling them on as dog tucker.

“The best year we did about 6000 mostly for dog tucker.”

Working for an Eketahuna butcher helped Atkinson hone his skills before he invested in setting up a killing house on his farm more than 20 years ago.

Atkinson is licensed to process carcasses for home kill, wild game and dog tucker. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

He was one of four outfits in the region who culled sheep.

“I was the only one who free-flowed everything.

“It took up more room, but it’s not as messy,” he explained.

Customers come from all over the region, from South Wairarapa, all along the coast, surrounding Alfredton and Eketahuna, and even parts of Wellington.

Many of his clients are regulars who have been coming to him for more than three decades.

Though he mostly processes meat to be used as farm dog tucker, he was passionate about the superior quality of home kill meats compared to supermarket varieties.

“Home kill is a lot better than supermarket meat.”

He said farmers knew the conditions which went into making the animal fit for food.

The best cuts he said were shoulder roasts.

“Chops are always good too,” he laughed.

Of game meats, fallow deer is his favourite.

“You can get good meat out of the shoulders.

“The bone does something to the meat with the flavour and it’s just so nice.”

An onsite killing house makes for easy processing. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

The work was hard but having a good team helped.

“We had some real fun out there – three to four of us skinning and salting.”

Two friends who’d been working with Atkinson for close to three decades had recently given it up.

Atkinson said there was less young blood coming through as many found it “too hard”.

There was still plenty of work going though, and he hoped to sell on the business or find someone to lease the premises from him.

“Farms are getting bigger and there’s less staff.

“There’s definitely an opening and the money’s there,” he said.

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