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Chinese men butcher fish inside a cannery. Salmon is piled on the floor by their feet.

Chinese men cutting fish at the Annieville Cannery, 1905. Image 1980-052-173 courtesy of the Delta Museum and Archives

During butchering, the fish is prepared for canning by removing the head, tail, fins, and guts (or offal). In the beginning, butchering was done manually by highly-skilled men, usually Chinese, called the “butcher gang” who worked at wooden tables. With very sharp knives they cut off the heads and fins and split the fish belly to clean out the guts (or offal). The tail was then cut off and discarded with the head, fins and guts. A group of thirty hand-butchers were needed to prepare enough fish for a canning line.

The butchering process changed dramatically with the introduction of the of the E.A. Smith Butchering Machine. Able to process 1-2 fish per second, it quickly replaced the manual butchering crew. Now the entire process could be completed with only one operator and a few assistants.

Worker in a brimmed hat feeds salmon into the iron butcher while female workers behind him fill cans.

Gulf of Georgia Cannery Collection courtesy of the Canadian Fishing Company CFC 3-21-9

Blueprint diagram of a 1909 model iron butcher, with the words "1909 model 'iron-chink'" at the top and "When ordering parts for the machine, all that will be required will be to give the numbers as shown by the following list".

Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives.