Operating out of two containers in rural Papakaio is Whitestone Meats – one of the latest businesses to come out of the Waitaki district. Reporter Tyson Young meets owner-operator Jeff Wright.
Q Where do you hail from, Jeff?
I come from Hawarden, in North Canterbury. I moved down here with my family when I was 13 in 1993.
Q How did you get into the meat business?
I got into the industry when I became an apprentice butcher after I left high school, which – dare I say it – was in 1997. While I was an apprentice, I won the South Island apprentice of the year competition in 2000. That same year, I also won the butcher of the year award. In 2001, I entered into apprentice of the year, and actually won the New Zealand title. It was a good experience. I got to meet the Mad Butcher and a lot of other loud and proud butchers. I stayed as a butcher for only about five years before I decided to go into farming.
Q What made you want to shift?
I’ve always been involved in farming. My family had sheep and deer. Once we moved to Waitaki in 1993, my parents were also farming in sheep and deer, so it’s always been in the blood. Mum and Dad always said to get into a trade first and then go farming later on.
Q You spent a few years as a farmer, but what got you back into butchery?
My family and I enjoyed farming but we ended up getting burned in the industry. I thought I’d fall back to my trade.
Q How long has Whitestone Meats been operating?
I’ve been running the business since the end of May, so about four months. At the moment, I’m starting out small and getting my name out there. Hopefully, this coming summer, I’ll be able to deliver online-based retail. That’s the way it’s going. There’s definitely a demand for home-kill meat in New Zealand.
Q What’s it like being your own boss?
I really enjoy it. The flexibility also works well with my family.
Q What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my family. Family is first and foremost. I like to play a bit of golf, squash, and a bit of diving in the summertime. I’m also in the rural fire brigade.
Q If you could have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think the person I’d have to have a drink with would be Muhammad Ali, because I like boxing, and I think he’d have some great stories to tell.