For the Hinkleys, Hemlock Ridge Game Processing is a fun family business

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Hemlock Ridge Game Processing in New Sharon first provided processing services for area hunters. The family owned and operated business is now certified for custom processing of cows and pigs. Pictured in front is Dylan Hinkley. Center, from left, are Tiffany and Emma Hinkley. In back is Rian Hinkley.

By Pam Harnden, Staff Writer

NEW SHARON — Meat processing is a fun business which allows the Hinkley family to work together while serving community members.

Hemlock Ridge Game Processing, 715 Starks Rd., is a licensed meat processing facility owned by Rian and Tiffany Hinkley. It started in a little shack in 2008. Hunters brought their deer and moose to be cut up and packaged.

“I always enjoyed cutting meat and hunting. That was often our dates. Tiffany got us started. She called the state about processing deer as a business,” Rian said.

About four years ago a larger facility was built. It features a skinning room, a walk-in cooler where animal quarters or halves are hung before the meat is cut up, a large area where the meat is deboned and cut up then packaged and labeled, plus a flash freezer where the meat is stored while awaiting pick up.

Three years ago the Hinkleys became certified for custom processing of beef and pork. Livestock producers who sell halves, quarters or whole animals may now have the animals processed at Hemlock Ridge.

Hemlock Ridge Game Processing in New Sharon first provided processing services for area hunters. The family owned and operated business is now certified for custom processing of cows and pigs. Pictured in front is Dylan Hinkley. Center, from left, are Tiffany and Emma Hinkley. In back is Rian Hinkley.

(Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

“We can process about one hundred pounds of meat an hour. Pigs take less time. We’ve done sheep, alpacas and used to do moose,” Rian said.

The Hinkleys stopped processing moose because of the uncertainty involved. Time would be scheduled by hunters who had obtained moose permits. The hunters weren’t always successful, leaving the Hinkleys with no meat to cut, Rian said.

Rian debones and cuts the beef and pork with help from son Dylan, 9, who began cutting meat when he was 3. Daughter Emma, 12, helps Tiffany label and package the finished products.

September to January was their busiest time, when seven days a week were spent processing meat. With livestock processing it is becoming year round, Rian said.

“Scramble pigs caught at fairs are ready now,” Tiffany said.

“Our name’s getting out there,” Rian said.

He said he can’t mix processing deer with other meats so won’t be doing deer this year. The family loves to hunt and wants to have Saturdays to hunt together, Rian said.

Beef quarters hang in a walk-in cooler at Hemlock Ridge Game Processing in New Sharon. The facility became certified for custom processing of pigs and beef three years ago.

(Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

“I love the deer stories. It’s hard to say no,” Rian said.

“I enjoyed cutting deer meat. It will be a big change for me,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany said there is a schedule followed. Killing is done on certain days. Pigs are done some days, cows on others.

Rian has the animals brought in a day early. They are fed and watered.

“It gives them a chance to calm down, relax. There’s a big difference in the meat if they’re not tensed up,” Rian said. “I do get nightmares. You’re taking something’s life.”

“It’s not easy to deal with. It’s life,” Tiffany said.

“Cutting meat is an art. You’ve got to do the killing to get to the cutting,” Rian said.

He said rendering is an issue and it can be hard to find someone to take the offal. Coyote hunters take it in the winter. A company in New York uses it to make ladies’ cosmetics, Rian said.

With deer, about 400-450 animals were processed last year. The Hinkleys finish one animal before starting on another. It takes more time, but there is no chance for mixups, Tiffany said.

“I love the people. Knowing the faces that go with the order sheets is great,” Rian said.

“We remember from year to year. It’s more personable. We make friends and know what to expect. We can help others out,” Tiffany said.

Rian said New Sharon voters will consider a Food Sovereignty Ordinance at the next town meeting. The way he understands it, only New Sharon livestock producers could use his facility and sell individual cuts of meat to their customers.

“More money would stay here. It could help the town’s farmers,” Rian said.

“It would be a positive,” Tiffany said.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net

At Hemlock Ridge Game Processing in New Sharon the winches and pulleys in the skinning room, seen here, make it easier to handle large animals.

(Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

At Hemlock Ridge Game Processing in New Sharon, deboning, cutting and grinding are done on the right side of the large room seen here. Packaging and labeling are completed on the left side before the packages are placed in a flash freezer to await customer pickup.

(Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

At Hemlock Ridge Game Processing in New Sharon, once meat is packaged and labeled it is placed in this flash freezer until the customer can pick it up.

(Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

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