David Bleathman (left) and Phil Bird travel to hobby farms around Tasmania. (Supplied: David Bleathman)
Mobile butcher Dave Bleathman says he prefers his customers to be present at the deaths of their paddock pets.
Warning: This story contains images that some people may find distressing.
In an era when phone apps allow food to be brought to your door with the click of a button, if you call Mr Bleathman he’ll come to your house, or paddock, and turn your livestock into cuts.
“They can be involved as little or as much as possible; I like customers to watch the whole process so they know it was humane.
“At least that way they know how the animal has been treated, especially if it’s been a pet all its life.”
Mr Bleathman says it’s a service that’s becoming more popular, with those seeking a tree change keeping hobby farms as well as the paddock-to-plate philosophy.
The Port Huon-based roaming butcher doesn’t discriminate, whether it’s an alpaca, pig, sheep, goat or horse.
He had a career as a “normal” butcher for 14 years and was introduced to mobile butchery at the other end of Tasmania, in Smithton.
He and sometimes his offsider Phil Bird travel to hobby farms across the state to slaughter and butcher animals for the owner’s consumption.
“The average day can consist of one beast, to four or five cattle, or 30 sheep down to four sheep,” he told ABC Radio Hobart.
Combined, the pair have 65 years’ experience in the meat industry.
“I’ve had phone calls from local police saying a car has hit an animal and I go out to dispatch it because I know what I’m doing and how to do it properly, and in the most humane way,” he said.
Mr Bleathman mostly visits hobby farms as well as some larger properties.
His services are in high demand and can be booked out six months in advance.
“It’s a better job to have than working in a butcher’s shop.
“My favourite area to work is probably around Oatlands; it’s just so much flatter and I never have to worry about wet ground.
“The Huon Valley is great, good for pig customers.”
Mr Bleatham says he prefers to hang carcasses for about six days. (Supplied: David Bleathman)
From the paddock to the plate
Mr Bleathman shoots the animals, preferably in a paddock.
It’s a quick process.
“I don’t like them in yards because they get stressed out, they move around,” he said.
“We try to always use one shot per animal, that way you know it’s humane.
“They go down, they don’t get up again like in a horror movie.
“If you send an animal away, you don’t know how it’s died.”
On slaughter day, Mr Bleathman will turn up in his specially kitted-out four-wheel drive.
“I can pretty much go to any property and put it into the cool room straight away.”
He returns the following week in a different vehicle, known as a “cut-up car”.
“It’s kitted out with bandsaws, mincers, sausage fillers, all the bagging and labelling equipment, cutting boards.”
Butcher’s cut no more
Mr Bleathman recommends hanging a cow carcass for about six days, despite some beliefs the longer it’s hung, the better.
“I’ve hung one cow for three months, but it ain’t no different from one week to three months,” he said.
“It dries it out, that’s all it does”.
The customer keeps all the meat from the animal, including the offal if they wish. (Supplied: David Bleathman)
As for the leftover parts, it’s up to the customer.
“On the kill day, the owner is responsible to get rid of the waste.
“They can dig a big hole or burn it.
“Some people do eat the offal, especially livers, hearts and kidneys.”
There’s also tongues and cheeks, and parts known as butcher’s cuts.
“They are called that because usually the butcher gets to keep them,” Mr Bleathman said.
There’s also the option to keep any horns or hides.
Mr Bleathman has what looks like his own butcher’s cut, with part of his left thumb missing.
He’s quick to point out the injury didn’t come from his butchering work.
“As a butcher I’ve never, ever cut myself,” he said, explaining that it was a power saw injury from his time as a carpenter.
“I don’t miss it.”