A couple of years ago, I remember complaining to a friend of mine about all the things I had to do and how there weren’t enough hours in a day to deal with them all. On that day, I specifically needed to buy meat, which would have meant a trip to the market and I didn’t have that time. She suggested some guy that she knew supplied meat to someone else in the office to come bring some for me. I was sceptical. I was very sure that whatever the guy was bringing for sale was the remnant of whatever had been sold in the market. Reluctantly though, I agreed… it was either that or cook without meat that day which for reasons I will not bother going into today was not going to fly.
And so the butcher came. First, I gave him the once over… you know that quick look that’s actually a long leisurely look into a person’s soul :D. And then I stopped short! I said to her: “his eyes are yellowish. Maybe he has hepatitis. What if he manages to contaminate the food with any of his body fluids, etc.” And my friend said something that was instructive. “How do you know who has what? You can tell this one by looking at his eyes… but what else do you know about the hygienic and/or sanitary conditions the beef goes through before it gets to you? Or even about the butchers? The butchers can actually transfer the hepatitis virus to each other if they obtain cuts and share the knives they use to cut up meat. In this way, a whole butchers’ stall can actually be filled with people harbouring the hepatitis virus.”
Cooking is an effective way of killing germs in meat. This pre-supposes that cooking was done for a sufficient amount of time for the meat to be done. Not for me all this rare and medium rare business… or worse still the completely raw tartare. Eew! My meat has to be DEAD! J And I am so not shy about saying so! Minced meat has more of a chance of harbouring germs even after cooking if it was not evenly cooked through. The story of people selling tuberculosis-infected meat is even more worrisome because this can be transmitted to humans, though not very commonly as I have explained above.
So who looks out for us, the busy career woman who is trying to juggle so many things at the same time? Thank God, my family and I survived our episodes of ‘meat on the fly’ but this is routine for a lot of people. The meat that these road-side hawkers carry around can be infected with all sorts of germs that are injurious to us and can cause disease. I cannot remember the last time that I saw a nice-looking Eko meat van. Those were the days when meat was transported in a very respectful manner such that when we bought and ate it, we did so knowing that it had been prepared in the most hygienic conditions possible. But that is not the case anymore. The days of carrying meat on bikes and in other disgusting ways are back again and with them all the inherent dangers that are associated with unhygienic conditions. Where can I go to get a list of approved/certified abattoirs in Lagos? Or in any other state for that matter? When my butcher says, ‘we never kill meat today’, does that refer to meat that he butchered himself or the one he goes to get from an approved butcher? If he butchered it himself, how do I know whether he saw a sick-looking animal about to die and decided to kill it himself and then sell to poor unsuspecting me? Or maybe he even just cut up an animal that he happened across that was dead already? How do I know?
Remember the story of a whale that washed up on the beach a couple of years back and how people rushed in, literally, ’daggers drawn’, cutting up any part of it they could reach. The problem here is a combination of ignorance and poverty. It is only poverty that would make a man race to get meat that washed up from ‘God knows where!’ I appreciate that a hungry man is not the easiest to reason with because base needs have to be satisfied. And really the Government should do more in terms of wealth re-distribution and equity in the society. But, should we ignore all, at whatever cost? Life??? Ignorance makes one feel that meat is meat forgetting that whatever it is that made this animal die and get washed up just might be harmful to you too.
This conversation is not complete without mentioning chicken. This is a big culprit in the transference of Salmonella to humans. The means of transmission is so easy. It could be from the point of buying it when it is thrown into the same bag as the fruits. If the fruits are not properly washed afterwards then, salmonella could be transferred. It could be through using a chopping board that we used for raw chicken and then using same for cooked chicken without washing. Or it could even be through eggs… you know those eggs that have chicken poop on them that the egg seller proudly displays as a sign of the fact that the eggs are fresh and were just supplied today? Well, that poop is a rich store of all sorts of germs including Salmonella. And so touching this and somehow touching our mouths or other foods can lead to this infection. If you buy a live chicken and you remove the feathers yourself in hot water, be sure to scrub your hands thoroughly as infections can also hide there. An innocent looking egg can also harbour this infection and so it is important to thoroughly cook eggs before eating them (Did I hear you sob about liking your runny yolks? I knoooow! I love them too :D)
I have taken to buying my meat from big retailers that I know slaughter the animals themselves. At least when I walk in, I am not hit by the stench of the very thing I have come to buy. I have considered becoming a vegetarian…it’s certainly healthier and that way, I can comfortably stay away from all the inherent ‘wahala’ (trouble) I have enumerated above. But guess what? The meat of the matter is that I am a carnivore at heart 😀
Here’s to a healthier you!
PS. As soon as I finished writing this, about to post it, I saw the news headline about yet another whale that washed up on a Lagos beach about 2 days ago and how Lagosians rushed to feast on it. Some things just never change, aye?!