Slaughtering animals can be a difficult task for anyone without the proper equipment
But for Manfred Wittwer, slaughtering livestock is all in a day’s work.
Wittwer runs the Bulkley Valley Custom Slaughter, formerly known as the Northwest Premium Meat Co-op, and has been leasing the property for about a year.
He fell into the business after the province introduced new meat inspection regulations in 2007, requiring all meat to be inspected.
“It really started in 2003 when cattle prices fell, so we had seven years of really bad prices and that was really the driver to build something that we could market local meat,” said Wittwer. “There was a group of farmers who started this co-op because you could only sell meat that was inspected.”
Under the regulations, an inspector has to check the animals for diseases, such as cancer or tuberculosis to make sure it is suitable for human consumption.
Once meat has been properly inspected, it can be sold to lodges or restaurants.
Now, BV Custom Slaughter is fully licensed to kill and inspect red meat such as beef, lamb, pork, and goat, as well as poultry such as chicken and turkey at the property on Donaldson Road located just west of Telkwa.
Wittwer will even ask customers if they would like to keep the liver, tongue, heart or kidneys of the animals.
The slaughter isn’t simple with multiple steps involved.
First the animals are killed, then you have to bleed them before they go into the scalder and then the beheading machine. After that, the insides must be removed and then washed and trimmed before they are given one final inspection and put into a cooler for pick up.
But Wittwer hasn’t always been in the slaughtering business.
He moved from Switzerland to Telkwa 20 years ago with his family for very different reasons.
“We always wanted to farm, that’s why we came here. We have a cattle ranch and horses but the horses aren’t for eating,” laughed Wittwer.
Over the years, handling meat has become second nature for Wittwer who also runs a cut and wrap business at home.
“I sell meat from home or at the Farmers’ Market,” he said. “I also do custom cutting for other people as well.”
With Thanksgiving and Christmas, prime turkey-eating seasons, just around the corner, the workload is quickly picking up with many people bringing in animals to be slaughtered.
“From about the middle of August to the middle of December, you have lots of work, more than you can really do. It’s really busy,” said Wittwer, adding that farmers will raise animals in the spring and summer before bringing them in, in the fall.
Glenn Harrie has been bringing his meat to the be slaughtered in Telkwa for the past two years.
“It’s great — great people, great business,” said Harrie, who recently dropped off four pigs, one goat and 24 chickens to be slaughtered. “I couldn’t do this at home.”
Shannon McPhail brought her chickens to the co-op last month after finding out about the business on social media.
“Plucking chickens is a lot of work and is incredibly messy and for someone to do it for only $5 a bird, it’s kind of like winning the lottery,” she said.
“It gives people an opportunity to grow and harvest their own meat in a way that can also get them some return. It has inspired the Bear Claw Lodge in the Kispiox to consider raising their own pork, poultry and beef and maybe even lamb. But people didn’t realize that if you have a lodge or a restaurant that you could serve all of this local food and it’s all made possible by that meat co-op.”
With more people spreading the word about the service, Wittwer said his clientele is growing ever year.
“I still enjoy farming, that’s why we came here, that’s what I like,” he said. “This business just became a necessary means to sell my product . . . but I don’t mind [running the business.]”
To slaughter a chicken costs $5, turkeys are $0.60 a pound, goats, lambs or sheep are $40 and hogs are $60.