Meet the meat connoisseur of Hay, Gary McRae from Macker's Meats.
Gary ‘Macker’ McRae may be one of Australia’s only small-town butchers who is also a local celebrity. The ‘Sausage King’ of Hay does a weekly spot on the radio to advertise his specials and takes the opportunity to give listeners a hot tip for cooking his wares.
A tall, vigorous man with rosy cheeks and an earnest grin, Macker has been a butcher ever since he left school, and has worked out of the same shop all that time. It used to be called Long’s Butchery, but 26 years ago Macker and his wife Sandra took over and changed the name to Macker’s Meats.
Every surface of the shop is lined with sets of knives for sale, and the fridges and freezers are chocked full of almost every kind of meat imaginable.
“We sell everything: kangaroo, emu, crocodile,” Macker says. “But our sausages are the most popular thing that we sell, and they are all made in-house.”
Given pride of place on the front counter is a shiny gold trophy from the Australian Meat Industry Council that declares Macker the ‘Sausage King’ for his Italian Continental sausages. He won’t share the secret ingredients of these snags, but instead, in true Macker style, gives us a hot tip.
“The secret to making sausages is to not make it too complicated – less is more – use simple ingredients and not too much of them.”
His products must taste good because Macker says that there are quite a few restaurants and hotels in the local region who won’t buy their meat anywhere else. He also gets regular visits from certain caravanners who just keep popping by.
“We get people with bigger freezers coming and stocking up, and then coming back in six months – we know their faces now.”
Gary and Sandra are a bit more rooted than some of their itinerant patrons, having lived in Hay all their lives, but on the weekends they visit their property at Maude, 70km out of town, where they raise animals as a hobby to eventually sell in the shop. Gary tries to stock as much famed local saltbush meat as he can, but it isn’t possible all year round because the sheep all tend to lamb at the same time.
Macker attributes his success to the fact that they are still a real butcher; getting their meat in carcass form and preparing it for sale out the back of the shop.
“Being able to cut up and process your own meat is a dying art,” he says.
It is an art he is working hard to keep alive, regularly taking on apprentices, many of whom seem to be in the family. He looks at the busy staff working out the back and rattles off a list.
“Ben did his apprenticeship here and works here. Craig's my wife's brother, and he works here. Vicky's family too.”
He met his wife Sandra when her brother Craig started as an apprentice, and she also spends her days working in the shop.
“I never wanted to work here,” she says with a smile on her face, “but I guess I’m stuck.”
Macker’s Meats is located at 183 Lachlan St, Hay.