Almost no own slaughter: “Lack of staff and conditions make it difficult for us” – Neuchâtel

Interview with Wolfgang Pfunder about the reasons why his butcher shop had to give up most of its own slaughtering. Nothing will change for customers, emphasizes Pfunder.

For decades, the Pfunder butcher shop in Neuchâtel has slaughtered meat itself, but it has now largely delegated this task to the Freiburg slaughterhouse. Out of necessity, says company founder Wolfgang Pfunder. There is a shortage of specialists. In addition, the legal requirements and the cheap meat competition would make it difficult for the well-established butchers. However, Pfunder emphasized to Susanne Ehmann that otherwise nothing would change. The specialist companies remain, as does the in-house production of meat and sausage products.

BZ: Sir. Pfunder, how did the decision to move slaughtering to Freiburg come about?
pound: There are basically two reasons for this: In particular, it is the noticeable lack of skilled labour. Production of meat and sausage products – butchering is just one part of this – is a skilled trade that requires trained professionals. For reasons of animal welfare and quality, it is out of the question for us to have it implemented by untrained or poorly trained specialists. Unfortunately, on the one hand, we have a young talent problem and, for example, pensions on the other. Butchering as an educational occupation has problems with young people, and we feel that too. In addition, constantly changing and stricter legal requirements make it difficult for us to continue slaughtering our own animals in an economically sound manner.

“As long as people buy cheap meat and mass-produced sausages from discount stores, we are working at the limit of profitability.”

BZ: Does this entail changes in production processes or prices?
pound: Only the place of slaughter is changed. The animals slaughtered in Freiburg are immediately returned to us so that we can carry out any additional production steps in our own production facilities with experienced specialists. It does not change the prices, because on the other hand there is no need to hire a specialist to carry out the slaughter for us. However, we would of course prefer it if we could still do it ourselves. Pricing is currently and in the future much more influenced by the rising costs of energy and massively increased material costs (e.g. spices or the like). Even so, we have so far been able to maintain our prices for high-quality meat and sausage products – primarily from animals from the region. As long as people buy cheap meat and mass-produced sausages from discount stores, our pricing policy must on the one hand do justice to the large amount of specialist work involved, but on the other hand still be able to survive in the market and be competitive. Therefore, we work at the limit of profitability, but we cannot raise prices at will. We see difficult times ahead for qualified dealers here. Our plus is the professional competence and regional producer thinking.

BZ: Where do the animals that are now being slaughtered in Freiburg come from? Do they now have to be transported further?
pound: We collect the animals from the entire Markgräflerland region. These are at different locations depending on availability. For many suppliers, this may therefore mean that the route to Freiburg is even shorter than before.

BZ: How do you ensure that the animals are not exposed to unnecessary stress?
pound: Right from the start, it was my top priority to attach great importance to animal welfare-friendly animal transport. I also always checked that and immediately removed suppliers who did not meet our high standards from the list of suppliers. All producers who now deliver to Freiburg have this standard, which avoids stress or even damage to the animals during transport. In addition, the large slaughterhouses have also developed in the meantime. The previously used procedure, where the animals had to wait longer, no longer exists in this form. The importance of stress-free slaughter was also recognized by these companies. Nevertheless – we would actually prefer to continue slaughtering ourselves if it was economically and organizationally sustainable.

“We, small specialist companies, are treated as strictly as the biggest butcher shops. The efforts and the relationship are just not right.”

BZ: Under what conditions could you kill yourself again?
pound: If only we could find professionally qualified young people and if the legal requirements regarding food monitoring in the district were not so complex. Because we meet all standards and comply with the law in every respect. This costs us enormous effort, time and ultimately money. We small specialist companies are treated just as strictly and subject to the most extensive formalities as the largest butcher shops. The effort and the relationship just don’t go together.

BZ: How do you continue to ensure the quality of your goods?
pound: We still select the animals, prefer regional producers and produce the meat and sausage products ourselves. Our high quality standards will certainly not change, only the place of slaughter has changed.

BZ: Does the new situation change anything for your customers?
pound: It is important for our customers that they continue to receive high-quality meat and sausage products produced at and by Pfunder. That is unreservedly the case. The sources of production have also remained the same. Nothing really changes for the consumer. Whether the animal is slaughtered by us and initially stored in the cold store or whether it is done in Freiburg and brought to us immediately in a refrigerated transport makes no difference to the production and above all to the quality.

Wolfgang Pfunder became independent in 1986 and started producing his own products in a garage. The first Pfunder store was opened in Neuchâtel in 1987 and Pfunder gradually expanded the business. Today there is a branch each in Neuenburg, Müllheim and Breisach. In 2021, Wolfgang and Elisabeth Pfunder handed over the business to Enrico Fuchs and Simone Fuchs-Pfunder and thus to the next generation.

Leave a Comment