Othmar Vohringer grew up in a farming community in Switzerland. As a child he was drawn to the lifestyle and the animals, and could be found on any one of the local farms during his school holidays, doing such chores as milking cows, feeding livestock or out working in the fields and pastures.

On one occasion when helping a farmer load pigs destined for slaughter, he found himself curious about what a slaughter facility might look and operate like, and asked the farmer if he could ride along and help unload the pigs. While he was not permitted to enter the facility itself, he asked the owner if he would like to hire on an eager young schoolboy. The owner agreed and Vohringer’s path was set.

“In Switzerland anyone wanting to work in any particular trade is required to successfully complete a trade specific apprenticeship, followed by trade examination.  After my high school graduation my twin brother and I entered a four-year butcher apprenticeship in a butcher shop that did everything from slaughtering to processing meat and making sausages and other meat specialties,” Vohringer said.

“Our apprenticeship included everything to do with meat, meat production and even cooking of meat dishes. Other aspects we had to learn were livestock health, welfare and assessment, food hygiene, nutrition value of various meats, and creating sausage recipes from scratch, which included the study of various spices and their effects.”

The four years of apprenticeship concluded with a three-day examination which included the slaughter and butcher of a pig and cow, sausage making, and a written exam in which students were expected to detail the laws and regulations of the butcher profession. Things such as food hygiene, trade ethics and behaviours, and animal health and welfare, among others.

Later, Vohringer travelled in North America, and met his Langley, BC-born wife, photographer Heidi Koehler. Eight years ago, the pair decided to move to Merritt in the hopes that a planned abattoir would provide steady work for Vohringer. Although the abattoir did not develop, Vohringer was hired to be head butcher when Post’s Meats changed hands and became The Local Butcher in 2015.

Vohringer also operates his own mobile custom slaughtering service.

“Here in Canada, as in Switzerland and many other countries in between, it is an age-old tradition that ranchers and farmers hire a ‘farm slaughterman’, to humanely slaughter livestock for their family’s personal consumption. Here in Merritt the farm slaughterman was ready to retire and I stepped in to fill the void left behind.”

Although it may seem a contradiction in terms to some, Vohringer stresses the importance of humane slaughter and a strong relationship with the farmers who raise the meat he slaughters and processes for food.

“As a butcher and slaughterman, I strictly adhere to the ethical standards of respecting the animal and only providing meat and meat products for my clients and customers of The Local Butcher Shop that are of the best quality, and that I would be very happy to eat myself. Being a butcher is much more than cutting meat, it is a responsibility and an honor to be part of an age-old trade that has its roots in a 2000+ year old tradition to provide people with food,” Vohringer said.

“To this day I have kept this passion and dedication to my profession alive. After all these years I still love with all my heart what I am doing, it humbles me and fills me with pride to have the skills to provide my customers with good meat quality and be able to skillfully fulfill their meat related wishes and assist them with professional advice concerning all aspects of meat. It is a joy for me to be able to help livestock owners render their livestock humanely to wholesome, nutritious meat for their family.”