From pigsty to plate: a day with a butcher in Berlin

Two men surrounded by pigs in a field
Simon Ellery (right) with Rudolf Bühler, the founder of BESH, in Schwäbisch Hall | photo courtesy of The Sausage Man Never Sleeps

On a trip to Berlin at the beginning of last week, I was invited to spend the day with New Zealand butcher and now Berlin Fleischermaster, Simon Ellery. Simon trained and worked as a butcher in his native New Zealand before moving to Germany seven years ago, and after undertaking three months of intensive and rather gruelling-sounding German butchery training, he set up shop as The Sausage Man Never Sleeps. For the last four years, he’s sold his sausages, bacon and black pudding at the Markthalle Neun, and to other shops and restaurants around the German capital. I’ve enjoyed Simon’s products on a number of occasions over the last couple of years, so was really interested to find out how he gets his pork from pigsty to market stall.

Four pigs in a sty, noses in hay

Simon usually procures his cuts of pork from a farming collective – the Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft (BESH) – in Schwäbisch Hall, Baden-Württemberg, an area well known for its Swabian-Hall swine. However, his friend Veronika had recently told him that the Berlin farm where she rides horses was looking to sell on a whole pig for slaughter, and the rest is (almost) history.

Meeting Ernie at Stadtrandhof, Berlin

Set back from a main road on the former border between Berlin and Brandenburg, the family-run Stadtrandhof is an absolute delight. A wide, muddy path flanked by wooden-fenced pens and well-grazed fields, the farm is home to turkeys, llamas, lambs, horses, boars and, of course, pigs.

The Stadtrandhof doubles as a petting zoo, and owner Elli, determined and passionate about every element of her work there, teaches various courses as well as offering horse riding lessons; she also puts on on festivals and events throughout the year. She’s also responsible for keeping an eye on the herd of wild horses that live on the plot of land negotiated with the owners of nearby Schönfeld airport. The farm shop sells honey and free range eggs as well as dried and cured meat products made from free range pork, beef and lamb. All of this is clearly a labour of love, and Elli is dogged about giving her animals with a good, happy life, whether permanently or, as in one particular pig’s case, not for much longer.

Simon’s pig, Ernie, lives with five others in a sty furnished with a large pile of straw for rooting about in. Ernie is a Wollschwein, or Mangalitsa, a robust-looking Hungarian pig/wild boar crossbreed with a fuzzy orange coat and strongly-flavoured, fatty meat. The Mangalitsa is a rare breed pig: because of their lack of lean meat, over the years they’ve gradually been replaced by domestic breeds that offer a greater variety of lean cuts to pork-eaters.

Six pigs in a sty being watched by two crouching people
Simon and Elli with Ernie and friends

Ernie was born here 14 months ago, and a week or two he’ll be taken for slaughter at a nearby abattoir with whom Elli has a long and happy relationship. She’ll help Ernie into his transport, she told me, but having reared him since he was a piglet and grown rather fond of him in the process, she doesn’t really like to think about what happens next.

A fuzzy orange-haired Mantalitsa pig in his sty, another pig behind him

Next stop: the butcher’s shop

After eating at a restaurant in Friedrichshain that serves some of Simon’s sausages (review to follow), we headed to the butcher’s shop in Prenzlauerberg where he hires space for butchering, processing and storing his meat. He showed me the enormous smoker where he hangs his bacon, and took me into the two walk-in fridges where he stores his fresh, processed and packaged meats. We sampled the deliciously porky, fatty Knackerwürstchen that hung alongside his French Andouille before he handed me a trio of fat, spicy chorizo to take home.

Ernie’s body will be delivered here in two pieces, and Simon will butcher him himself. Amongst other things, the meat will be used for fresh and cured sausages and bacon as well as coppa, brawn (head cheese), black pudding and ham. Simon’s keen to use up every last bit of his pig, so virtually none of Ernie will go to waste. If you’re in Berlin and interested in trying products made from what I can personally contest was a very happy rare breed pig, keep an eye on Simon’s site and social media (links below) to find out where he’ll be selling them.

Simon invited me to join him for the day and kindly gave me samples of his products, but all words and opinions are my own. All photos of me taken by Kate Wirth (@shoegirlberlin).

My day was spent with…

The Sausage Man Never Sleeps

Website: The Sausage Man Never Sleeps (and Facebook | Instagram)

…at:

Familienbauernhof Stadtrand Berlin:

Website: Familienbauernhof Stadtrand Berlin
Address: Stadtrandhof, Waltersdorfer Chaussee 7, 12529 Schönefeld

Fleischerei Erchinger

Website: Fleischerei Erchinger
Address: Greifswalder Straße 205, 10405 Berlin