14 December 2012

Rwanda: Where the Meat On Your Plate Comes From

In Kicukiro, a Kigali surburb is an abattoir, well known as "Ibagiro" in Kinyarwanda. Societe D'Abbatage Au Rwanda is not only an abattoir but a hides and skin exporting company as well.

If you move down - hill in Kicukiro, and get to a place where there are many people holding meat in their hands, then you know you have reached the abattoir. It is located on vast land and has a green gate - leading to the place where the smell of meat wafts the air.

The abattoir, which officially opens at 5am, has about 150 cows brought in for slaughter on Monday's and Friday's.

The place is crowded with dealers from different places that have come to buy beef in whole sale. Dressed in white blood stained laboratory coats and white gum boots, all these people do is cut and weigh beef. They wake up very early, but then, so do the customers.

Before actually seeing the abattoir, some cows are locked in wooden kraals, filled with the smell of dung. After the kraals, is the hides compartment, which emit worse fumes.

Each of the cows has marks all over their backs to maintain identity. The cows that are of mixed colour - brown and black - then wait for their dreadful fate as they are picked, killed and skinned. The meat and fat are then separated.

Rugondo Mugabe, the owner and manager of the abattoir, says all they do is provide a service.

"At this abattoir, we d popular newscast, Agataliiko Nfuufu aired a story about how some crooks were manufacturing shoddy sausages made of rotting pig intestines. The public was disgusted and many vowed never to eat the meaty snacks again. Fresh Cuts' sales dropped sharply.

So, in the ensuing crisis management campaign, an open audition was held to get an actor who would craft and act-out a TV ad portraying Fresh Cuts sausages' superiority. One man's idea impressed the judges and has since cast the company back in business.

on't buy cows or sell meat from our own cows. People with permission from the Ministry of Agriculture bring their cows, we slaughter them and they sell their meat," he says.

With people bringing in cows for slaughter every day, early morning is best suited for this activity. The being pulled away from the rest of the herd resists as if it knows its gruesome fate. Four men usually take on the job; they take the cow to the slaughter room, twist its head then finally kill it.

In the slaughter house is a veterinary inspector who walks around monitoring the process until the beef is sold out. He is there to make sure that the meet has met the health needs.

The Kicukiro abattoir has three co-operatives, those who sell the beef and two others who buy cows from the provinces and bring them in for slaughter. All the co-operatives work under this abattoir.

Rugondo adds that the number of cows coming to the farm has greatly reduced due to the big number of cows that were infected in the Eastern region, leaving them with only three regions, Northern, Western and Southern.

The company, which also deals in hides, buys the skin from the owners of the cows.

"After treatment, we sell the skin to potential buyers and export some to China. We have partners in China who come here to buy the skin and take it back to their home," Rugondo remarks.

The abattoir also has a co-operative run by mostly women who take on the selling job after animals are slaughtered.

Maria Nyiraraba, one of the beef sellers and a member of Seller's Co-operatives says a kilogram of beef goes for 1600Frw in that market.

"Most of the buyers here resell the meat they buy. After taxes and transport, they sell it at 1900Frw or 1800Frw," she says.

She insists that the major problem they face now is the limited market due to high beef prices that stem from the shortage of cows in the Eastern region.

The abattoir located in Kicukiro was built with the help of a loan given by Development Bank of Rwanda. Having been built in 1998, the founders didn't give any collateral but rather presented a workable project. The first phase of the abattoir was built and today, they are putting up another section which will be a well equipped store, also on loan.

Rugondo hopes that in the future the abattoir will also have its own cows for meat processing and sell its own meat as well as hides and skins.

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