Oak Bay butcher runs Metchosin abattoir to help meat remain local
Metchosin farmer John Buchanan drives his tractor through his beautiful pasture nestled in the hills off of Lindholm Road. Buchanan cuts the hay that will soon feed his sheep.
Each year Buchanan, of Parry Bay Sheep Farm, raises about 600 lambs at his farm, which are eventually turn into dinner for people across Greater Victoria. He even has a white donkey that acts as the sheep’s keeper.
Buchanan raises the animals, but when it comes time for them to be used as meat, he sends them to the abattoir in Metchosin, operated by Mike Windle.
More than half of Buchanan’s sheep are sold to Windle, the co-owner of the Village Butcher shop in Oak Bay.
“It’s easier for me,” Buchanan said. “I don’t have enough customers to sell (all the lambs) I have.”
Out of the abattoir Windle offers a cutting service for the lamb after they have been processed.
The next time Buchanan sees his lambs, they come back as loin chops, racks of lamb and legs of lamb. He also gets some ground lamb and stew meat.
“I like roasted leg of lamb myself,” Buchanan said.
At this time, the abattoir in Metchosin is only licensed to process lamb, sheep, goats and rabbits — no hogs or cattle.
“Some people bring in two (animals) at a time and others come with 30,” Windle said.
Farmers from the West Shore, Sooke, East Sooke, Saanich and the Gulf Islands depend on Windle’s abattoir to process their animals. It is the only red meat abattoir in the CRD.
“We don’t slaughter pork, but I would like to,” Windle said adding he is always getting hog farmers calling to see if he offers the service.
Although Windle is unable to slaughter hogs at his abattoir, he does purchase whole hogs from Metchosin farmer Tom Henry after they have been processed. From there he cuts them and cures hams, bacon, hocks and feet.
“Anything you can make out of a pig we will make ourselves,” Windle said.
Windle, a butcher for 15 years, had bought sheep processed in Metchosin for years. When he heard the former abattoir owner wanted to retire, he decided to keep the facility operating to ensure he had local product for his store.
“(Running the abattoir) is fantastic, I think it’s the best thing I could do for my customers,” he said. “I am the one who connects the farmers to the people.
“I am not making any money at this, I am just trying to supply my store with meat of local animals,” said Windle, who has been operating the abattoir since July 2009.
After Buchanan’s lambs have been processed and cut at the Metchosin site, he is able to sell some of his meat through local farmer’s markets and a farm store with fellow Metchosin farmer Tom Henry of Still Meadow Farm.
Henry is well-known for the 200 hogs he raises to produce pork products for the community each year.
His hogs are sent to an abattoir near Duncan and cured pork products Henry sells at the farm store are prepared by a butcher in the Cowichan Valley.
As for processing his own meat, “It’s pretty rare for a farmer to do it all,” Henry said. “It takes a set of skills and I have no desire to do that, I can hardly cook a pork chop, let alone cure a ham.”
“Buying local meat helps with the reduction of food miles and saves fuel,” Buchanan said. “It supports the local economy and landscape. The only way you can do that is to support this kind of agriculture.”
Buchanan and Henry’s farm store is open on Sundays 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 4198 Still Meadow Road in Metchosin.