For James Mele, co-owner of The Meat Room in East Kilmore, a career in the butchering trade was almost destiny. “I come from a long line of Italian and Australian butchers. Six on one side and three on the other,” he says.
Despite his strong family heritage, James is not actually a butcher by trade.
“This is my passion business. I’ve been in the hiring industry for most of my career. The Meat Room started as a way to help small producers, there was absolutely no plan.”
Except the business has taken off. James, who says he learned the trade by watching his father as a child at the family butcher, has always loved interacting with people. Living in East Kilmore for 17 years, James has worked with many primary producers across regional Victoria.
“They have a lot of passion, but also a lot of frustration,” he says.
“For a long time, it was impossible for producers to find a butcher to help with the presentation and packaging of their meats.” So, in 2012, James and his wife Kathy opened The Meat Room, a Primesafe-approved facility to help meet their needs.
Today, The Meat Room makes traditional Italian sausage and salami, as well as running classes. James and Kathy travel to Italy every year for creative inspiration.
“We are not bound by tradition,” James says. “We travel from Rome to Calabria, visiting master butchers. Then we come back home and mix things up a bit. After all, that’s what being Australian is all about.”