A business in New Zealand has been fined for the illegal sale of home-kill meat through butcher shops.

Canterbury Homekill Services Limited (CHK) and owners Noel Womersley and Halena Hitchcock were sentenced to multiple charges under the Animal Products Act in Christchurch District Court.

The company and its owners were fined NZ $84,500 (U.S. $49,900).

Ensuring safe meat
Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general, said the agency would take action when food businesses acted outside the rules.

“Consumers deserve and expect that the meat they buy has come from a legitimate supplier. This means any risks associated with the meat have been identified, managed, and checked to keep people safe,” he said.

New Zealand Food Safety led the prosecution because the meat had not been checked in the food safety system to ensure it was safe.

The company was allowed to process recreationally hunted animals for individuals but was not permitted to sell the meat.

Womersley had a chiller at CHK where he stored meat from hunting trips. Investigators found evidence of various other meat sales, including beef, pork, and goat, that CHK illegally supplied to customers after studying electronic records.

“The prosecution resulted from a careful investigation, begun in 2020, which found evidence the company was selling unregulated meat, including large quantities of venison, through their two retail butcher shops. A close analysis of invoice records revealed discrepancies between the venison sold and purchased, meaning unregulated meat was being sold,” said Arbuckle.

“Most food businesses invest significant effort to ensure they keep their customers safe. Health risks are associated with eating unsafe meat, particularly for vulnerable communities and those with weakened immune systems, so they must do the right thing.”

Fish poaching case
In a different case, a man who poached crayfish with a commercial value of nearly NZ $300,000 (U.S. $177,200) was jailed for more than two years.

John Nohotima was sentenced in Wairoa District Court on one charge following a prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Nohotima sold 4,664 recreationally-harvested crayfish to a group.

Other members of the poaching gang were sentenced in March to home detention and community work.

Nohotima’s sister, Anne Nohotima, was also given 100 hours of community work by Tauranga District Court for her role. She sold 210 crayfish that her brother poached.

Jodie Cole, Fisheries New Zealand regional fisheries compliance manager, said a large amount of the stolen crayfish was sold at a fraction of the legitimate market price.

“Nohotima used falsified customary permits to illegally harvest this crayfish with around 16 craypots, fishing from the waters near Mahia Peninsula. The crayfish was on-sold to the Kawerau-based ringleaders who distributed the crayfish throughout Auckland, Kawerau, Tauranga, Gisborne, Wairoa, Mahia, and Napier,” said Cole.

“If you’re offered seafood at a price that appears too good to be true – assume it was probably harvested illegally. We’d advise not to buy it, and to let us know who offered it to you.” 

Nohotima gained 72 permits between December and July 21, 2021, and sold the crayfish between September 2020 and August 2021. 

“Staff at the butcher shop in Rangiora noticed homekill meat was being brought into the shop from CHK because it was vacuum packed and unlabeled with supplier branding or packaging. They reported that offal from CHK came into the butcher shop in large tubs, still with grass, which was being cleaned and packaged for sale to the public. These meats were sold to the public through their retail butchery.” 

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