Migrant Butchers Working Seasonally In Iceland - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Migrant Butchers Working Seasonally In Iceland

Published November 24, 2014

Every year, several dozen butchers commute from provincial New Zealand to rural Iceland – for just two months’ work, reports the BBC.

As work commutes go, the journey takes some beating, roughly 22,300km (about 13,850 miles) each way.

The roughly 30 butchers travel to Iceland for the lamb processing season, which begins each September.

“My friends say ‘Iceland? What do you kill there – seals?’ Nah, they’ve got their own breed of sheep,” said Shawn Parkinson who has made the trip for the past seven years. “We’d be out of work if we stayed in New Zealand at this time of year. It’s off-season. We’re laid off.”

Flights and accommodation are paid by their Icelandic bosses – who struggle to find trained locals for just eight weeks’ work – and the wages are similar to those found in New Zealand.

The chain – as a production line is called in the meat industry – runs from 07:30 in the morning until 18:00, five days a week with a few half-Saturdays.

Parkinson’s Icelandic boss, Gunnar Halldórsson, says the expense of flying in slaughterhouse specialists is worth it.

The season is too short – and the factories too remote – for Iceland’s butchers to be prepared to relocate. And to train locals from scratch takes too long.

“So it’s better for us to have butchers who do this all day so we can get up to full speed quick,” said Gunnar. “Also it is a quality issue to have professional butchers,” he says.


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