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Former meat workers Roger Middlemass (left) and Mike Farrell show Spectrum’s Jack Perkins around the now derelict Longburn freezing works near Palmerston North.

‘Men smoked and stubbed their butts out on the carcasses but they were washed later. In fact, the works used huge amounts of water to wash and clean everything – 40% of the Palmerston North supply’, says Roger Middlemass. ‘And prior to the 1970s, workers dressed in any old gear – black singlets, gumboots, jeans.

Longburn photo of solo butchers at work in Longburn Freezing Works

Solo butchers, Longburn 1902. Very skilled hard work but a good bucher would dress 100 sheep a day.

The early 1970s saw stringent hygiene regulations introduced to comply with international standards. Everyone had to wear sterile white clothing, including aprons and caps. And the first women began work on the slaughter board in 1974.

Longburn The mutton chain later s

The mutton chain late 1970s. Wooden-handled knives were later replaced by plastic handles for improved hygiene

Longburn redone

Longburn’s owners imposed a lock-out in 1986 when workers refused to accept a severe wage cut and the works was mothballed. It closed in 1989, one year short short of its century.


The one-time boiler room 2013. Like the rest of the plant it's marked for demolition