Abattoir is a strange word. It means slaughterhouse, which is why a steak house in Atlanta uses the word as its name. They specialize in “whole-animal dining.” Abattoir is also the name of a villain in the Batman comic books.
The word popped into my consciousness last month because of a tweet that turned up in my Google alerts. It read: “Big day Tuesday spending it with Frank Murphy in his abattoir then lots of butchering head to tail #yodaofthemeatworldheis.” I think the hashtag says, “Yoda of the meat world, he is.”
With my curiosity piqued, I searched for more. Good Food Ireland had a nice article about Murphy’s butcher shop in Cork:
On the wall behind the counter, take a look at the photograph of the shop when Frank’s father was at the helm in 1947. The old black and white image shows the front of the shop taken from the outside with carcasses of whole lamb, beef and pigs hanging over the pavement in front of the shop window and an outdoor table displaying the various prized cuts like pig’s head, corned beef and offal. That was back in the day when customers were discerning about their meat buying and housewives wanted to browse the street, checking out all butchers to see who had the best stock.
But perhaps the best thing about Murphy’s butchers is the fact that Frank slaughters all his own meat for the shop. Everything is traceable by him right through from the farm, to the slaughterhouse, to the shop counter. The abattoir is located just a short stroll from the shop, behind the Main Street. It’s very small and time honoured in presentation with a small holding yard just outside. Animals are brought in to be slaughtered one at a time then dealt with one by one by expert slaughterhouse staff. Facilities are basic and traditional, just like it was back in his father’s day. No conveyor belt processing in sight. It makes for stress free and humane conditions for the animals and as a result, tender, flavoursome meat for the customer. It also means Frank can hand pick his stock and have some interesting breeds passing through from smaller producers who only rear a handful of livestock themselves.
I also found a podcast of a radio segment about Frank Murphy’s abattoir. RTÉ broadcaster Ella McSweeney reported on the shop and how it fits into the local economy and the social fabric. She witnessed the slaughter of a heifer and remarked on the swiftness of it as she watched.