In Northern Natal, meat forms a huge part of our eating habits. We are a group of people who see meat as a staple part of every meal. It is so entwined into our culture, that we even give it as a gift, use it as currency and are always looking for the cheapest supplier.
Not a week goes by where one doesn’t hear how a friend purchased large quantities of meat at a bargain. From large orders of pork to beef, there is always someone selling meat at a price which undercuts established butcheries and supermarkets. However, these undercut prices are not always a good thing and to be honest, they can lead to serious health issues. As the old Afrikaans saying goes “goedkoop koop is duur koop”.
Recently, a local resident acquired pork from a local butchery selling their products on Facebook, at very low prices. However, when she started preparing the meat in a dry oven, she was horrified to see worms crawling out of her pork chop.
So, the question remains. Do you know where your meat comes from? As well as the process it went through before landing up on your plate?
While there are farmers and ‘middle-men’ who slaughter and sell livestock at a fraction of the price, it seems that this allows for incidents such as what happened to the Newcastle resident, along with many, far worse potential sicknesses and issues to arise.
The Newcastillian went out to find out what the correct way is to slaughter livestock and sell meat, to ensure a good, clean and healthy product is bought.
At N.N. Abattoir, two veterinarian inspectors Professor Prozesky and Dr du Preez explain, that there is more to meat production than merely slaughtering and cutting the animal up.
The two professionals explain that the animals need to be treated as humanely as possible, from when it walks into the abattoir until the moment it is killed.
“The animal will be stunned and within minutes, its throat will be cut and bled out,” says Dr du Preez.
This is to ensure the animal does not need to suffer. Once bled out, the animal is cut open, so its intestines, lungs, heart and liver are removed.
“During this process, the carcass is weighed, as well as inspected for bruising and any defects.
“From there, the carcass is put into refrigeration so it can cool down for 24 hours,” says Dr du Preez.
While this might seem an easy task, Professor Prozesky says as veterinarian inspectors, they also need to check the animals for diseases, bacteria and any other illnesses or defects which can compromise the quality of meat.
“We also need to check for any residue of any drugs which might have been given to the animal,” says Professor Prozesky.
From running tests on bacterial contamination, running further residual programmes to check for any substances in the animal, while ensuring the animal’s overall health, Professor Prozesky says these tests can’t always be done on a farm, as a farmer might not have the necessary equipment or have a qualified veterinarian on his premises.
“Because of this, it is always best to use a registered abattoir. A registered abattoir has specific regulations in line to ensure meat safety and quality for its clients,” Dr du Preez says.
If an abattoir does not adhere to rules and regulations established by the government, both the Department of Environment Affairs and SPCA can ensure the abattoir shuts its doors.
But once an animal is slaughtered in the correct manner, what happens from there? Why is it best to purchase meat from your local supermarket or butchery?
“If you look at incidents such as the listeriosis outbreak, it all comes down to hygiene,” says Jameel Ameen of Yaseen’s Butchery.
At butcheries such as Yaseen’s Butchery, Jameel says they need to follow a strict set of hygiene regulations.
“We clean our meat regularly and use a special eco-friendly detergent to ensure it is safe for consumption. Furthermore, we stop all production once a week to scrub our premises clean. Thereby ensuring our products are always clean and safe to eat.”
In regards to processing the meat, Jameel explains there are those who will compromise their product to cut costs. This can include mixing soya with their meat. “We sell 100% pure meat, as we do not compromise on our quality.”
Selling an array of meat products, including biltong, Jameel says some might find their products a bit more expensive, but this is because Yaseen’s Butchery prides itself on quality products which are always safe for customers.
Such is the pride they put in their products, that inspectors can determine which abattoirs they use by the markings the abattoirs leave on the meat. These markings are to show the animals have been slaughtered humanely and the meat has been cleaned accordingly.
By acquiring meat from a cheaper alternative or from farmers without the proper equipment, Jameel says there is a chance that a customer can purchase meat which is not only unhygienic but can be potentially unhealthy.
What does one look out for at a butchery before buying meat?
“The first thing to look at, is the cleanliness of the butcher,” he says. Through a butcher showing pride in his premises and product, Jameel says a customer can determine if they will receive quality meats.
With both N.N. Abattoirs and Yaseen’s Meats looking at the importance of cleanliness, ensuring the meat is safe for consumption, it seems that quality meat does come at a price.
Paying those extra few bucks to ensure your safety and the well being of your family truly does make sense.