from abattoir to appetizing

Where does meat come from? – ask a Canadian youngster and you might hear “from the supermarket, duhh!

Buying meat in Canada is safe and sanitary – cellophane packaged, perfectly dyed, and meticulously preserved.  There are no flies, no blood-encrusted butcher knives, and – or so “they” tell us – definitely NO bacteria. 

A sanitary meat supply in Maroua, however, is another story.  Go to the marché abattoir (the meat market) any time after 10am and you’re more likely to see mouches than meat.  Flies cover every inch of the meat putrefying under the equatorial sun.  Us Nasarras hold our breath and speed-walk past.

Little wonder that we’ve dithered and delayed for the last two months about buying beef.  We eat it at restaurants where we can delude ourselves with visions of chefs who take their patrons’ health seriously. 

Ignorance is bliss.

Finally this weekend we caved to our carnivore curiosity.  Catherine decided to make us beef randang.  Did you know that beef randang requires fresh beef?  


Given we had long balked, we decided simply meandering down to the meat market was letting ourselves off too easy.  So, with trepidation Catherine and I headed straight to the city’s abattoir.  We wanted to see the cows that our meat came from and see how it was cut and carted off.  We needed to see exactly what we would eat that night. 

Caroline stayed home, firmly hanging on to her delusions.

The abattoir in Maroua is not like the stainless-steel clad, supposedly sanitized, super-sized factories of slaughter found in Canada.  Nothing fancy, just one wall, a tin roof, and scarlet-painted concrete floors to ground the structure.

Half-way hangout

That’s it.

As you would expect, blood spurts, guts spill and body parts are severed. 

Enough said. 

At the hands of the corps of highly skilled halal butchers, we witnessed 19 cows meeting their – hamburger – maker.  Wearing garments that matched the decor – and no shoes – they waded through the crimson tide.  White-gowned meat vendors closely inspected the sides of beef and selected cuts that would grace their clients’ tables.

We probably saw our own fillet come off the cow.  We can’t be sure, but the meat Catherine and Caroline picked up at 9:00am was freshly delivered and blessedly free of flies. 

You can’t ask for anything more … here

Catherine concocted a wonderfully tasty beef randang and our stomachs ached contentedly. Even our bowels agreed – knowing where our dinner came from was a healthy – albeit eye-opening – experience.

~ by Greg Spira on January 10, 2010.

One Response to “from abattoir to appetizing”

  1. Interesting blog. At the moment Canadian and Cameroonian beef do not appeal to me. So happy to receive a new set of Flickr photos ! The butcher waiting for the slaughter, the two-headed beasts, the lone stork and the scaly, chopped off tail lizard are my favourites. Thanks for sending them.

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