John Shannon has been a butcher for more than 30 years but new regulations and growing compliance costs could mean lean times for our High St butcher.

John and his wife Patricia, opened their independent Meat Company Dannevirke business on High St 18-months ago, but after a lifetime of butchery, the new Food Act and health and safety legislation are causing headaches.

"I'm not happy, because all the compliance costs are a real drain on the business," John told the Dannevirke News. "Big businesses can handle all this but it's tough on small, hands-on businesses like ours.

"I'm already working 70 hours a week, so where do they think I'm going to find time to do all this crap?"


And while John concedes his business has been able to adjust so far, he worries about the effect the Food Act will have on little food businesses throughout the Tararua.

"It will kill them and in 30 years time Dannevirke could be a ghost town. After more than 30 years producing safe food are legislators telling me I'm doing it wrong?"

However, John said he's very lucky to be operating in the Tararua District.

"The Tararua District Council have come up with a plan for established food businesses, giving us free registration and capping costs," he said.

Council spokesperson Kimberley Stevens confirmed the council aims to minimise the impacts on existing local food businesses by not charging an additional application fee for registering under the necessary "risk based measure" during the three year transitional period, ending February 2019.

The Food Act 2014 requires all councils across New Zealand to adopt a new cost recovery framework for the way they charge registered food businesses and this significantly changes the way food businesses have been registered, she said.

And while John said he's had his battles, he believes Pennie Smith, the council's environmental health officer, has taken a commonsense approach in regards to his business.

"She's made suggestions which I've been happy to follow," he said. "However, I was the only Tararua food business to attend a MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) Food Act workshop in Palmerston North recently and the only one to turn up to a roadshow a year ago."


John also put in a submission against the Food Act, but believes nothing he said seems to have been considered.

Producing meat products their customers rave over is a matter of pride for the Shannons, who had previously owned Whariti Meats in Woodville before opening in Dannevirke.

And with a cold winter chill in the air, bacon bones are highly sought after.

"You just can't get decent bacon bones, so I cure them all myself," John said.

It takes a week to cure the bones properly and while it's now soup weather, there's also big demand for the bones for traditional boil ups too.

"A big pot feeds a big family and it's warming. They're selling fast, 250kg went in the last fortnight and I have people come from Levin buying 10 bags at a time and others from Waipukurau, arriving wanting six bags and all of a sudden, I've none left."

But the Shannons won't take short cuts, sticking to the five to seven-day curing process.

"Making sausages from scratch and curing bacon bones, that's an ability us traditional butchers have and despite what people believe, my survey of supermarkets in the Manawatu and in Dannevirke show a kilo of product from me is between 10 and 12 per cent cheaper than the supermarkets sell it for."

Unfortunately John has advanced osteoarthritis in his left ankle, making his future in the business uncertain.