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Meat marketing and quality control
Monday, April-18-2005

By Muhammad Qasim

April 18 2005: The marketing of meat starts with the slaughtering of animals. Meat shops deal only in one meat type, i.e. beef or mutton. Various types of meat markets (such as village, mohallah and central markets) are found in rural and urban areas.

Meat shops are located in village bazaars. In urban areas, mohallah meat shops are organized on the same lines.

According to the West Pakistan Slaughter Control Act 1963, slaughtering of small and large animals should strictly be undertaken with ante and post-mortem veterinary inspection. Presently, slaughtering of small and large animals is done even in private places. In Lahore, a few slaughterhouses are also established in the private sector.

In general, the existing facilities are highly insufficient. Majority of slaughter houses are located in the thickly-populated areas. The slaughtering, carcass dressing and by-product handling are done in the same space.

There is also shortage of various equipments such as pulley hoists and hooks for hanging carcasses. Ante and post-mortem arrangements, water supply, drainage systems, waste disposal, handling of by-products are inadequate and sometimes non-existent.

A large portion of the by-products such as blood, glands, intestines and bones are either wasted or poorly processed. One of the reasons is that these facilities are not periodically updated because of various complex procedures involved. It can, therefore, be safely concluded that slaughter facilities are mostly obsolete, unclean, and poorly-managed.

The problem is most severe in big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi/Islamabad, Faisalabad and Peshawar. Due to the shortage of facilities, the number of unauthorized slaughters is much higher than those at the slaughterhouses. Obviously, official statistics greatly understate the number of animals slaughtered.

The red meat markets operate five days a week. Tuesday and Wednesday are observed as meatless days throughout country. During these days, butchers visit local livestock markets to buy animals. A large number of animals are slaughtered unauthorisedly by butchers in the backyard of their shops and the meat is directly made available to consumers.

Under formal killing of animals, after slaughtering, the title of the meat is transferred to contractors, butchers or processing plants. Contractors supply the meat to hotels/ restaurants, from where it is provided to consumers in cooked form.

The processing plants supply the meat to departmental stores in the large urban centres. Butchers getting meat from slaughter houses carry it to their respective shops located in towns, peri-urban areas and mohallas.

The transportation of meat begins after slaughtering the animal in slaughterhouses till it reaches the meat shop for onward selling to consumers. From slaughterhouse, the dressed carcasses are transported to butchers' shops using various means like bicycles, horse/donkey carts, auto rickshaws and vans. The transportation cost depends upon the type of transport and distance involved and is usually paid on per trip basis.

There is no transportation cost in case cycle and motorbike. However, in case of other mode of transportation, the cost ranged from Rs50-200 per turn depending upon the volume/weight, mode of transportation and distance involved.

In Punjab, butchers in the rural areas slaughter about 79 per cent of total meat produced in Pakistan, while only 20 per cent is formally slaughtered in slaughterhouses. Four-fifth of the meat slaughtered is passed on to the retail meat shops of the cities while remaining 20 per cent is channelled through the wholesalers supplying meat to the super stores as well as retail meat shopkeepers.

Finally, the consumers get raw meat according to their requirements mainly from the meat shopkeepers and some from super-stores. However, the cooked meat is available to consumers through restaurants. On the other hand, all the eatable offal (heart, liver, stomach, head) produced at the slaughterhouses is sold through retail shops.

In urban and peri-urban areas, meat prices are fixed by local government administration at tehsil and district levels. Consumers are well informed about the meat prices, therefore, little variation in prices occurs.

However, there is a price difference in boneless meat and meat with bones. According to a first-hand information the beef prices in cities ranged from Rs60-80 per kg. The boneless beef prices are on higher as compared to boned beef. The mutton prices ranged from Rs.140-160 per kg.

In rural areas, prices of both beef and mutton are 10-20 per cent low as compared to urban centres. However, costs like transportation, slaughterhouse costs, taxes and duties are also involved in direct purchase from producers. An increase in the price of meat in urban centres also increases prices in rural areas.

In general, meat is handled under unhygienic conditions right from its production till it reaches in the hands of the consumers. It is a general proverb in Punjabi society that "if you want to stop eating meat, just visit a slaughterhouse once".

The shortage of basic facilities at slaughter houses is the basic cause of unhealthy meat production. The uncovered and un-chilled transport of meat, bared hanging of carcasses for display, unhygienic condition of meat shops, presence of houseflies and dirty dress of the butcher, all collectively signifies the unhygienic conditions. From health point of view this is a very serious issue.

Fixed pricing is another constraint in improving meat quality. Its backward mechanism discourages the production of healthy animals at producer level. This is why the animals culled for various reasons are marketed for slaughtering purposes. The farmers usually keep more healthy animals for selling on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha.

However, there is lot of potential for improvements. The informal discussions and visits to private sector slaughterhouses show that they are relatively in a better position than the public-managed ones. Therefore, the private sector should be encouraged to promote healthy meat production and marketing in the country.

Courtesy The DAWN
 

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