“Everything but the meat” is the motto at Brisbane butchery supply company Vadals, a family owned business that is now in its second generation. The company – as the motto implies – supplies butchers in Queensland and Northern NSW with every other conceivable item they need, from machinery, to cure preparations to enable them to cure hams and bacon, to the sausage meal for the sausages.
Operations Supervisor John Beesley has worked at Vadals for eight years, a sea change after a career running entertainment and live music venues. In that eight years he has seen a huge shift in the retail butchery industry, with the major supermarkets now dominating and a big reduction in the number of independently owned butchers.
“Gone are the days of the butcher’s shop on the corner.” says John. “Independent butchers today have to do something completely different to the supermarkets to stay in business, and we’re seeing some real innovations at independent butchers today.”
“The butchers shops that are doing well at the moment are the ones that really focus on great service and listen to what their customers are looking for. The best are really active online and in social media as well and are able to respond to enquiries that sometimes might come from the latest meal prepared on one of the TV chef programs. They need to be several steps ahead of what is on offer at the local supermarket to keep their customers coming back to them.”
One of the examples John cites is offering a knife sharpening service, of course using the Nirey sharpener, either as a free or low cost service to customers.
“One of our customers had a day when they offered to sharpen all their customers’ knives. Luke (Luke Benjamin from Total Knife Care) and I must have sharpened 150-220 knives that day. It was a good job we had the Nirey or we just never would have been able to do it manually!” said John.
In the world of butchers, electric knife sharpeners are a controversial topic – butchers either love them or hate them. And there’s also an element of not wanting to let go of the definite skill in being able to use a whetstone to sharpen a knife. The only problem is that it takes so long to do it manually, and you have to be really accurate. John sharpens his own knives both ways – he gets the bulk of the sharpening done on the Nirey and then finishes off on the stone.
Luke Benjamin from TKC talks to butchers on a daily basis. He explains:
“Most butchers sharpen their knives every 2-3 weeks and the typical time it takes to sharpen a knife is 5-7 minutes on the rough side of the stone (240 grit) and 3-5 minutes on the fine side of the stone (600 grit) per knife. For the 2,500 butchers that have a Nirey Electric Knife Sharpener it’s 30 – 60 seconds per knife and most of that time is spent getting the sharpener from the store room, unless you have it mounted on a Nirey Stainless steel sharpener shelf. With the ever increasing charges for mobile sharpening services, most butchers tend to use stones. Typical sharpening rates are $7.00 – $12.00 per knife, so it soon adds up if you’ve got four butchers with four knives each. The convenience of a machine in house will be paid for in 3 months.”
I.O. Shen knives
Vadals of course also stock Total Knife Care’s range of I.O. Shen knives. These aren’t so much for the butchers to use themselves, more for them to sell to their own customers. John owns two I.O. Shen knives himself – the large chopper and the filleting knife.
The company is moving with the times – with the decrease in independent butchers the company is looking at a relatively new market – the enthusiastic home cook. They are in the process of converting part of their premises to a retail shop and once this is fitted out will be not only selling all the equipment required, but will be offering courses for people who would like to learn how to make their own sausage and cure their own meat. So if you’d like to learn how to make chorizo or make your own cheese kransky, Vadals will soon be the place to go!
More info at http://www.vadals.com.au/.