By Mick Jensen
The Hansons have a long history in butchering – and three generations lined up to lend a hand at Netherby Meats in Ashburton over the holidays.
Working for owner Mike Hanson have been his father Ally, a veteran with 50 years’ experience, and Mike’s two children, Samantha, 16, and Tim, 14.
Mike had close to 20 years in the butcher’s apron and follows in the footsteps of his grandfather Harry, who clocked up around three decades in the profession.
Ally Hanson, now 70, still has his original butchers’s apron and manual sausage maker from his apprenticeship days and although retired, occasionally helps out.
“I was a labourer for a short time in the butchery when I was 16, but I was told by the union that I needed to do my four year apprenticeship if I wanted to stay.”
He said his 50 years of butchering had included stints in Waimate, Timaru, around the country in various meat processing works, and for 10 years he ran Netherby Meats.
Unlike the staff of 10 or more who worked for his son these days, he had a staff of just three.
“Back in the day I used to process maybe one cattle beast and a few sheep a week. Mike can process 20 beasts and 50 sheep in a busy week.”
Ally Hanson said there were no big chillers and freezers in his early days in butchering.
He used to wrap meat in grease proof paper and then newspaper, and bag up mince.
Friday was a big selling day, he said.
“About half of the business of the day was done between 6am and 8am and it was usually men coming in to buy meat before going off to work.
“After the big rush I went off doing my deliveries.”
The meat chopping board in his time was a large chunk of blue gum that was scraped clean every night with a wire brush.
“We didn’t have the teflon boards they use today or the flash stainless steel knives. Today’s machinery has cut out a big chunk of the manual process, which isn’t a bad thing.”
In 2009 Mike Hanson built a big 248 square metre processing area at the back of Netherby Meats to cope with the demand for the farm-kill side of the business.
It features a sausage processing area, workspace, a big chiller and a blast freezer.
The retail side of the business has also grown over the years and the butchery has won awards for its small goods, all made on-site.
Dry cured bacon and sausages, including the gold award cumberland snarler, have proven big sellers.
Netherby Meats is now the only retail butcher shop in Ashburton.
Back in the day, said Mike, there were a dozen or more in Ashburton.
Mike said it was still too early to know if either of his two children would follow in his footsteps, or the footsteps of other Hansons before him, but for now, both were happy to help out and earn a bit of money over the school holidays.
Both were meat savvy and able to turn their hands to sausage making, curing and other skills.