2004-01-19 22:08:55 ET|
While doing some research for Valentine's Day I came across this:
When New Yorkers buy their meat, itís usually dead.
Although meat consumption in this country is at an all-time
high, many Americans have succeeded in disassociating
themselves from the "death" aspect of meat eating. So
whatís stranger: carrying your meat home when the carcass
is still warm, or denying that the meat on your plate was
alive to begin with?
Much like choosing a lobster from a tank, shoppers have the
option to buy live poultry, rabbits, goats and lambs at a
number of retail livestock markets in New York City.
Permanand Raghoo opened such a market, R&D Live Poultry
Market, in Ozone Park, Queens, in 1994, part of a rising
trend in livestock sales in New York City that saw numbers
soar from six markets in 1980 to 78 today. "This is all
about fresh meat," says Raghoo. "Thatís what it is."
Those who buy their poultry from live markets (mostly
immigrants) cite flavor as the top advantage over
store-bought chicken. The fresh kill is more distinctive,
gamier and, according to fans, just plain better. While
many Americans canít imagine choosing a friendly-looking
duck for dinner, those who frequent the markets wouldnít
consider eating shrink-wrapped meat from Gristedes.
R&D Live Poultry is a blocky cement structure, much like a
garage or a warehouse, and is split into three components:
a butcher shop, rooms for live animals and kill rooms where
the slaughtering takes place. With its concrete and
livestock, R&D Live Poultry at once fits in and is
decidedly out of place in the urban environment.
If youíre not accustomed to being around livestock, you
will first be struck by their nasty odor. Surprisingly,
itís the birds, not the beasts, that smell, well, foul.
Bird droppings, bird urine, the cause is not quite clear,
but the rank stench of live poultry would be the first
deterrent to a live-market newcomer.
All livestock here is on display: hundreds of birds and
caged rabbits sit in crates stacked one on top of another,
while the goats and lambs commune in a holding pen
scattered with fresh hay. Some might like to think that
animals for the slaughter are somehow less "cute"
or "cuddly" than ones, say, at a petting zoo, but theyíll
be disappointed. All of the animals at R&D Live Poultry are
fluffy, fuzzy and everything else that makes them worthy of
The process of selecting and killing an animal is fairly
straightforward. The animal is weighed, you pay at the
register, tell the clerk how youíd like it prepared
(quartered or halved? head on or off? intestines in or
out?) and wait while itís slaughtered. Killing is done in
the halal tradition, which means that a Muslim priest says
a prayer, the animal is healthy, killed mercifully and
cleaned properly. The process takes 20 minutes for poultry
and up to 45 minutes for a beast.
R&D Live Poultry shares some traits with your regular
supermarket: They accept major credit cards, and a cheerful
sign near the entrance says, "Welcome and Thank You for
Shopping at R&Dís Live Poultry."
As Raghoo eyes his livestock, a goat approaches the gate
and gently nuzzles his hand. When asked if he thinks the
animals know theyíre going to be killed, Raghoo shakes his
head. "Animals arenít that smart."
R&D Live Poultry Market
104-16 101st St. (Liberty Ave.), Ozone Park, 718-738-6865.
Volume 16, Issue 16