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New Westminster's secret butcher
Robert Goodrick is New Westminster’s secret butcher.
Behind an unmarked black door on Clarkson Street, in a warren of rooms and coolers above Sherlock’s The British Store, Goodrick grinds out 700 pounds of sausage a week, dry cures 300 to 400 pounds of bacon, prepares meat pies and carves up sides of pork and quarters of beef for clients like independent meat shops, restaurants, pubs and private clubs.
But with fear stalking the supermarket meat counters because of the ever-expanding recall of beef products suspected of e-coli contamination, Goodrick isn’t sure how much longer he can operate in relative anonymity as consumers look for alternate sources for their meat, ones they can trust.
Goodrick is an old-school British butcher, schooled and trained in the European method of cutting and preparing meat. With his hands, and natural ingredients that don’t include fillers, chemicals and cultures.
It’s hard, slow work. He wears a chain mail glove on his left hand to protect it from his razor-sharp blades. His thick, gnarled fingers can peel the hide off a pork quarter.
Curing that pork into bacon takes salt, spices, cold air and time—up to three or four weeks compared to the 24 hours a commercial meat processor can take to create bacon using a rote list of chemicals and additives.
“It’s the old way of doing things,” says Goodrick. “If only things slowed down and were done properly, there’d be no e-coli problem.”
Goodrick’s been carving meat since he left school at 13 years old. He served an apprenticeship, studied for three years to become certified as an inspector, then worked on ships out of Southampton, England for a stretch. That’s when he met his wife, a Canadian.
After running successful shops in Kerrisdale and North Vancouver, he became disenchanted with the business aspect. All the paperwork took him away from the pork.
He took a job in a smokehouse in Langley to re-forge his connection with the meat but it wasn’t an ideal match for his talents. So when an opportunity presented itself to work the knives and blocks again without the day-to-day worries of a storefront, he seized it.
That was almost three years ago.
Many of his old clients have stuck by him. Others find him based on his reputation alone, and a product menu that includes such specialty items as Guinness sausage, bundnerfleisch, landjaeger, tongue loaf, head cheese and stuffed pillow o’ pork.
“What I do is a dying art,” says Goodrick. And because of mass production where speed and profit trump safety, consumers are becoming more susceptible to disease and contamination from poorly handled meat.
“We create our own problems,” says Goodrick. “If we get back to basics, we alleviate a lot of the problems.”