Scenes from a slaughterhouse

Rama Ariadi / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
In Cambodia live chickens are slaughtered, drained of their blood, parboiled and their feathers plucked before they are butchered to the customer’s liking. KT/Jean-Francois Perigois

Vegetarians, vegans, and pescetarians aside, almost everyone on the face of this earth depends on chicken as their daily source of protein, and it isn’t easy to see the reason behind it. Chickens are generally easier to keep, they breed multiple times a year, and last but not least, every single part of the chicken can be processed to make a variety of other things beyond food.

Between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, Cambodians slaughtered and consumed a little under one million chickens through various slaughterhouses across the country –and according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the rate of chicken consumption is only going to keep increasing as the population of the Kingdom continues to grow.

While affluent Cambodians could easily satisfy their poultry cravings by simply popping by into a supermarket – where the chicken in question has been butchered beyond recognition – those who could not afford to pay the premium for ready-to-cook packages often get their chicken fix from slaughterhouses in markets across Phnom Penh. While the experience could be jarring for some –with blood, entrails, and what not on full display with no holds barred – to others, it provides a sense of relief to know that the chicken that they will be consuming later on in the day is as fresh as it could possibly be.

Set-ups like these are not uncommon across Southeast Asia – including Cambodia. Live chickens are slaughtered, drained of their blood, parboiled and their feathers plucked before they are butchered to the customer’s liking. Intestines? Sure. Chicken hearts? Why not? Congealed blood? There’s a man whose sole job is to collect and let the blood congeal. In fact, no matter how rudimentary it may seem, the entire process resembles a modern production chain, with a person tasked to do a very specific job – not unlike Ford’s T-Model production chain, albeit much less bloodier.

Considering that slaughterhouses can be seen in most markets across Cambodia’s urban areas, there’s the added value of convenience to it – as one can order a chicken and be completely sure that the chicken was indeed alive and kicking before it saw the butcher’s blade. However, as convenient as it may be, Cambodian wet markets are not exactly the epitome of hygiene, so buyers beware and exercise extra caution. If a chicken looks lethargic, be aware that the chicken is probably suffering from Newcastle disease, not enjoying a siesta.

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