Mobile butcher busier than ever
Two years ago Ethan Hodgkin was working full-time at a Numurkah butcher’s shop, putting in long hours and considering his options.
Occasionally he’d moonlight as an on-farm butcher and when he started getting a steady stream of work he decided to quit his job and give it a crack.
Now, his Invergordan-based business — Hodgkin Home Kills — is booked out two months in advance.
“It gets busier in the colder months but I am flat out all year around,” Mr Hodgkin said.
The butcher has five cool rooms running around the clock to keep up with his customers.
“It’s a cool room for every day of the week,” Mr Hodgkin said.
“The cool room will come to site with me and I’ll leave it at the farm with the meat inside for a week. Then I come back seven days later to butcher it all up.”
Letting the meat hang and cool after slaughter helps to tenderise and get the best cuts.
“If it’s warm the meat can be jiggly,” Mr Hodgkin said.
“Hanging sets the meat up right. The longer you hang it the more it will tenderise.”
Mr Hodgkin said the majority of his customers were farmers who had used mobile butchers before.
“I’m finding a lot of people are hiring me because I do butcher’s quality cuts and they like how particular I am,” he said.
“They are family farmers who want something for the freezer. Most of the old fellas still do it (slaughter their own meat) themselves; my dad and old fella still do it, but it’s becoming a lost art.”
Mr Hodgkin says butchering is a bit like shearing — it looks easy, but it takes a lot of skill.
“There are that many muscles you’ve got to follow, it’s not simple.
“But I really enjoy the job. I grew up on farms and I like the quality of animal that I get to see and work with.
“Also, working for yourself is pretty great. I’ve got five-year-old and two-year-old boys and it’s nice to not be working 12 and 14 hours days like I did in the butcher’s shop.”
One of Mr Hodgkin’s largest home kill jobs was 25 lambs, which took five hours to kill and five hours to butcher.
“The jobs can vary a bit but I do anything — cattle, sheep, pigs, goats.”
Mr Hodgkin spent the first half of his childhood on a Mitta Mitta farm before his parents made the shift to dairy farming outside Numurkah.
“I pride myself on the humane treatment of the animal and keeping things as stress-free as possible,” he said.
“Growing up on farms helps with knowing how to do that right.”
When asked what sort of breeds he was seeing in the job, Mr Hodgkin said Angus would never be beaten, but there were a lot of Speckle Park being used.
“The beef industry can have its flavour of the month, and Speckle Park was that, but they’ve also stuck around because of how good their yielding and look are,” he said.
“For the sheep, Aussie Whites are really in fashion now among the meat breeds, but the old school sheep guys won’t ever go away from the woolly sheep when they can have the wool and the lamb both.”
Mr Hodgkin runs a small flock of Dorper-cross ewes with Aussie White-cross lambs at foot.
“I was raised around cattle so I know them. I’ve only just gotten into sheep and I now have a few ewes myself,” he said.
“I wanted to learn a bit more about them, and bring a bit of diversity to the freezer. It comes in handy when talking to the sheep farmers.”
Mr Hodgkin will accept jobs within an hour’s travel from Invergordon.
“The furthest I’ll go is probably Kyabram or Avenel
“But most of my jobs are in the Numurkah, Waaia and Katunga areas.”
If an animal is home-killed, its meat cannot leave the property and must only be eaten by the family who owned the animal.
Mr Hodgkin said he owed a lot of his work to word of mouth, but he’d also advertised the business pretty heavily to build up his customer base.
“I’m active on Facebook, I’ve got signs on the highway near my house and I do a lot of sponsorships,” he said.
“I’m happy to loan a cool room out to a weekend event.”
Mr Hodgkin’s contact details can be found on his Facebook page — or on the side of his truck.