A father and son team has turned a disused abattoir off the coast of Tasmania into a high-quality food supplier.

Story By Cormac Hanrahan

The smell of gunpowder lingers in the air of the slaughter room. The body of a jet black Angus cow lies on the floor, its coat gleaming. A winch lifts it onto a cradle of thick steel and two slaughter-floor staff go to work. One strips the hide, baring a white layer of fat, while another removes the head. The tail comes off and the innards are wheeled away in a barrow. The two men move with fluidity and precision. For all the activity, there’s hardly a sound as the whole beast is dressed and up on hooks within minutes. This is the slaughter room of Flinders Island Meat, and the operation brings a proud smile to the face of owner David Madden.

“You should have seen this place when I first came down,” he says. “Needed a bomb put through it, I tell you.” David strides from the slaughter room, past lambs and wallabies hanging in the cool room, and into the boning room, where a handful of staff busily turn out cuts.

“The wash room had no panelling, the boning room wasn’t functional, there were no chillers, and what was here broke down the first time we used it,” he says. David, who started his working life as a jackaroo in Queensland and is originally from Victoria, says all this with a smile, too, even though at the time it very nearly broke him.

Boxes stacked in the cool store are evidence of the hard work and mental strain required to turn around a once defunct facility. Written in neat black texta on the packaged cuts are some of the most famous names in the Melbourne restaurant scene: Movida, Taxi, Royal Mail, and three auspicious initials that really got the ball rolling – VDM – standing for Vue de monde, the bastion of fine dining set high in a glass tower on Melbourne’s Collins Street that has been hailed as Australia’s best restaurant.

This story excerpt is from Issue #106

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2016