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Slaughter Yards were smelly places

Slaughter yards were found on the edges of the town or city away from people's noses. Maybe people just didn't want to know the condition of the meat they were eating. Maybe they had stronger stomaches than we have today.

Some slaughter yards like that of Herbert Robinson were small producers with only a couple of workers while others such as that of the butcher, Alonzo Sparkes, were very large employing many people.

In 1912 the state government instituted an enquiry into the meat industry being especially interested in safeguarding public health. From the following comments in can be seen why:
There was a problem with diseased beasts being slaughtered and only the inspector had the right to condemn a carcass, so if the inspector did not come to the slaughter house then diseased carcasses could be sent to butchers shops. The further out from Brisbane the slaughter house the fewer visits it had from the inspectors; in some places only once a week.

Rats were a problem and the Commission as one witness told the bench: "One Sunday, it was wet weather at the time, we drowned the rats out of a space about 30 feet square, and we got eighty two rats out of that."

An open shed used as a slaughter house 1885 Grovely
A slaughter house in Grovely of 1885 shows that hygene was not of a high standard but it was accepted by the people of the time. Not long before 1885 doctors performing surgery had to be convinced to wash their hands. So conditions were rather different from today. The open shed would protect the carcasses from the rain but not from the flies. The men look as if they dressed up for the photo, there is no sign of aprons to protect them from blood except for the butcher wearing the traditional butcher's apron. The wagon could have been for delivery of the carcasses to the butcher shops. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library.

Regulations were becoming more strict


The government had been passing legislation at various times to protect public health by raising the standards of the slaughter yards. The effects of these regulations are shown in the accompanying photos.

Another tactic the government used was to set up government owned and operated model slaughter yards. There was one on Hamilton Road just west of the roundabout with Webster Road. It was later sold to William Basnett who established a warm milk diary; it is now all housing.

It seems that the government had been thinking about starting a public abattoir and Robinson was worried that if it did so then he would have to close down. This fear was realised in 1931 when the government developed the abattoirs at Cannon Hill and all the private slaughter yards were closed down.

The slaughter yards were becoming more complex
Anderson Cameron's slaughter yards at Rode Road, Chermside in 1926. He had a butcher shop on the corner of Ann and Brunswick Streets, Fortitude Valley. In this photo the closed building on the left may have been the slaughter house offering protection to the meat. Hides are draped on a fence to dry in the middle while the open building on the right seems to be the boiler house. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library.

The End of the small slaughter yards.


Evidence taken at the 1928 Queensland Cattle Industry Commission gives some idea of the state of the industry at the time just prior to the closure of all slaughter yards in 1931.

Mr D L Miller - Inspector of Slaughterhouses said that his job was to inspect slaughter yard sanitation, inspection of meat and to supervise butcher's shops. He was responsible for 6 slaughter yards and 22 shops within a radius of 5 miles of Chermside area to ensure they conformed to regulations. The weekly killing at these yards was 180-200 cattle, 1000 sheep and 75 pigs. It seems that he did not inspect the State Butchery in Chermside.

Mr W F E Brunkhorst, General Manager State Butcheries testified that the Chermside State Butchery (Slaughter Yard) was 75acres 0roods 12perches and cost 21 pounds per acre when purchased in 25/8/1922 with a total investment 6676 pounds. It employed 1 manager, 4 slaughter men and 8 offsiders to handle an average weekly kill of 163 cattle, 100 sheep, 46 pigs and 95 calves. The yard supplied 21 shops in metropolitan area, 5 cash carts, 6 delivery carts.

This was a relatively large slaughter house others were small with only 15 to 20 acres and employing only a couple of men.

Three years later they all closed.

Inside the slaughter house of Anderson Cameron at Rode Road, Chermside. The building looks like it could be enclosed, maybe they had gauze over the slats in the back wall. There seems to be a concrete floor and one man is wearing what looks like gum boots so they probably washed the floor regularly. Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library.