At James Whelan Butchers we are delighted to say that we farm, slaughter and butcher all our own beef. From farm to shop, many of our customers travel further than our meat! We are more than just butchers. A day in my life allows for a variety of human emotions and practical skills.
We believe in natural, gentle nurture and care when it comes to the welfare of our animals. We are truly convinced that a healthy, well fed and happy beast will ultimately repay the kindness with sensational tasting meat. On our traditional farm I just have to place my feet in those wellies and I’m living my simplistic childhood idyll of ‘Farmer Pat’! The instantly recognisable smells and sounds of the farm warm my heart and linger in my nostrils for many hours after.
I take the slaughtering process seriously and insist upon a strict, stress free, artisan approach. The area is kept calm and always quiet. Indeed, should we detect any uneasiness in the animal whatsoever it is immediately returned to the field; gaining a reprieve for another time. Such action owes less to mercy than it does the fact that a stressed animal prior to slaughter will flood its body with chemicals producing tough and, in our opinion, unacceptable meat.
The light and gentle touch needed for the nurture and care of the animals has to transform itself quickly to steely skill for the physicality of the abattoir. To me the sharp edged knives represent nothing more sinister than the tools of the trade, but to an outsider I can see how they appear quite lethal and more suited to a Victorian body stealers’ laboratory! By the end of such a vigourous day the blood spattered whites tell their own story; no words needed to explain where I’ve been.
“We believe in natural, gentle nurture and care when it comes to the welfare of our animals. We are truly convinced that a healthy, well fed and happy beast will ultimately repay the kindness with sensational tasting meat”.
There is a common quality that infuses all these ‘people’ I have to be in a given day and that’s passion. Having a natural zeal for doing what I do results in excellence for our customers which is paramount. It is a simple philosophy that has served me well and it never ceases to amaze me how healthy obsession thoroughly devours exhaustion and any form of discouragement no matter what the day brings forth.
Photography by Roger Overall