Working at an Abattoir

I first started shopping at Sanagan’s in the hopes that I would not be contributing to the needless suffering of animals. Yes, they’re being killed so I can eat them, but until then I want them to live without cruelty. And I want their death to be as humane as possible. That’s the deal I’ve tried to make with myself as to an omnivore. Based on conversations I’ve had over the years, I know this is also a motivating concern for many of our customers.

Since working at Sanagan’s, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting any number of farms that supply us and learned a lot about how our animals are raised. But that’s where it ends. So when I heard that our head butcher, Jerry Kokorudz had just returned from a week working at the Penokean Hills farm abattoir I was keen to hear about his experiences. 

Penokean Hills, located in Bruce Mines, is our most northerly beef supplier. For an overview of their operation, have a look at Brian’s previous article here

Jerry’s recollections of his time at the abattoir may not make for the easiest read but it’s an honest account of what was for him, I believe, the valuable process of understanding not only our animal’s lives but also their death. And we, in turn, saw this as an opportunity to shed some light on this vital part the agricultural process.

Here’s Jerry’s story:

“It’s all one operation. Penokean has the farms, the processing plant, they butcher the steers, they age them and they ship them. There’s always an inspector on hand. I learned the full process.  

The steers arrive Wednesday night at the barn attached to the kill floor. You want to give them a chance to settle in overnight. You don’t want them stressed, as that can be bad for the animals and for the people doing the job.

It was really interesting watching it. It’s all very quick. And really quiet. The steers are led, one by one out of the barn and into a self-contained stall called the knock box. In this stall Tyson, the head butcher, kept everything calm while administering the stun bolt to 19 steers over the course of the day. It’s an instantaneous kill. 

It was hard work, and, while it’s a difficult process to watch, I think it’s important for me, as the guy who cuts so many steaks, to see how and where they come from. It was definitely fulfilling; I’d go back to Penokean and do it again.”