Offal plant an awful mess
Former employee describes property as shameful; town wants building demolished
Gary Butt remembers his last workday at the old offal plant in Carbonear.
Prior to shutting down the equipment and locking up the stadium-sized building at 71 Lower Southside Road, he placed his work boots and coveralls in his locker, thinking the shutdown would only be temporary.
But more than a decade later, Butt, who’s now 57, has no allusions about ever again working at the site.
The steel and concrete building has been left to the elements, and now has a ghostly, derelict look to it.
Sheets of steel siding swing precariously like unlatched shutters in the breeze, a large section of the roof has collapsed, and a front door has been pushed off its hinges, offering free access to anyone wishing to enter the cavernous facility.
Inside, a vast production line is silent, the green paint flaking off the metal.
Butt’s boots and coveralls? They’re still inside. “To me, it’s shameful,” Butt stated last week. Product in big demand The building was constructed by Earle Brothers Fisheries in the early 1970s, and operated as a fish offal production facility — known to many as the meal plant — until the cod moratorium in 1991.
The plant could produce some 300,000 pounds of fish protein — made from a combination of fish parts discarded during processing at other plants around the Avalon region — during a 24-hour period.
The protein was in big demand for many years, and was shipped to customers around the world, including Norway, Russia, Sweden and beyond as feed for cattle.
It was even shipped to Ethiopia to feed people during a deadly famine in the 1980s, said Butt.
At its peak, the plant employed about 50 people, and the wages were good.
“Back in the 80s I was bringing $1,000 a week,” said Butt.
“I got a new vehicle. A new home. And it’s all paid for. That’s where I got it. It brought me in some good. It’s too bad it closed down. I enjoyed working there every morning,” he added.
But those of a certain vintage will also remember the unpleasant smell that emanated from the plant. When the winds blew in from the east, many found the smell unbearable.
There were times when the late Fred Earle, who managed the facility, would shut down the plant in order to spare the staff and patients at the hospital.
“One thing I can say about Fred Earle: he had a lot of respect for the people at the hospital,” said Butt.
“But for me and many others, it was the smell of prosperity. It gave me a good life. I reared four children. To me, that was everything. But to others it was just a bloody stink.” New life About five years after it closed, the facility was reopened by new owners, a consortium under the name of Island By-Products. The company produced a dried powder from crab and shrimp shells for sale in Asia.
But it, too, ceased operation a decade ago, and the site has been mostly quiet ever since.
Gary Butt was there on Day 1, when the doors opened, and he was there at the end. He still has the keys to the building, in fact.
And the land on which the building sits was once owned by his father, the late Gordon Butt.
“I’ve been connected to that property for my entire life,” said Butt.
However, he now regards the site with a sense of concern; not pride. Debris from the building has blown onto his daughter’s property, and he’s worried someone is going to get hurt.
“I don’t know why (the owners) let it run down, and I can’t even see why they bought it,” he said.
“For me and many others, it was the smell of prosperity. It gave me a good life. I reared four children. To me, that was everything. But to others it was just a bloody
The state of the building has also caught the attention of the Carbonear town council, which voted to issue a demolition order at last week’s regular meeting.
The company will now have 30 days to respond to the order, before council decides on its next course of action.
Mayor Sam Slade expressed fears that young people may enter the unstable building, and is worried someone might get hurt, or worse.
“We need to be proactive and speak to the company. They have a responsibility,” Slade later told The Compass.
A spokesman for Island By-Products Ltd., Hant’s Harbour businessman Blair Janes, said council has been notified “we are going to deal with it.”
He said some equipment has been removed in recent days, and an assessment will be done to determine the best course of action.
“We’ve got a building that needs to be addressed. We’re addressing it,” said Janes. He could not give a timeframe on when a decision might be made on whether to stabilize the building or tear it down.
This large, dilapidated structure at 71 Lower Southside Road once operated as a “meal plant,” transforming fish offal into protein for cattle feed.