US: Meeting, then eating, the goat
Posted: May 25th, 2009 - 3:52pm
From the street, the shop could be mistaken for a bodega, but its red-and-yellow awning advertises live poultry, goats, lamb and beef. Scores of chickens flutter in cages. A dozen placid goats stare from a pen at customers from Bangladesh, Trinidad and Colombia. A worker slices the throats of Rhode Island Reds, uttering a prayer each time, according to the rites of Islam.
A block away from this tiny slaughterhouse, Jamaica Archer Live Poultry, which is housed in a former auto-body shop, commuters and students pour from buses and subways into the commercial hub of Jamaica, Queens, where tourists catch the train to Kennedy Airport. A few blocks the other way stand rows of frame houses and postage-stamp yards that make Jamaica look like any blue-collar American suburb.
In the Jamaica shop, where custom-slaughtered beef is sold for $3.50 a pound, there is not much mention of the “locavore” movement, which prizes eating locally grown food and knowing how it is produced, and whose Greenwich Village mecca, Blue Hill restaurant, serves a plate of grass-fed lamb and fiddlehead ferns for $36.
Yet the shop’s owner, Muhammad Ali, is part of a growing immigrant-driven market that has taken root in cities but is reviving a practice dating back to America’s agrarian past: seeing the live animal that will soon become your meal.
“I like to see it fresh and choose what I want,” said Mitchella Christian, a native of Trinidad who was visiting L. Alladin, a nearby competitor of Mr. Ali’s market, to buy a lamb and three chickens.
The lucky cow that escaped another slaughterhouse in Jamaica this month was only the tip of the horn. There are about 90 live-poultry markets in the metropolitan area. That number has doubled since the mid-1990s, state officials say, because of the demands of immigrants from countries where eyeballing your meat while it is alive is considered common sense. About a quarter of the markets are also licensed to slaughter larger livestock.