In the good old days, meat was meat. Real honest to goodness sustenance - what you saw was what you got. It matured naturally and tasted wholesome. We have been enthusiastic meat eaters for approximately the last 200 000 years with incisors for tearing meat and molars for grinding it.
Only in approximately the last 10 000 years has there been a diet shift with the cultivation of grains and legumes. This has introduced the modern trend with a changeover to vegetarianism and veganism amongst some consumers.
Although meat is a popular food source in South Africa, it has recently lost credibility due to mass production, GMO feed, injection of antibiotics/hormones and pumping. Not to mention, the donkey meat debate and the questioning of free range labeling.
As much as consumers drive markets, they need to be careful, however, of banding about the buzz words – organic, anti-biotic free and hormone-free. They often do not understand the value of certain modern agricultural practices nor the pressures of an every increasing population, and a decrease in agricultural land. Some farmers say that farmers will always be exploited - no matter what methods they use.
So, every industry has its story from production to the end product.
This exhibition aims to focus on a small but vital segment of that process.
It is a tribute to the meat conductors who offload these heavy weights in large volumes.
The physical strength needed to lift an entire carcass, or primal; be it a baconer (+/-65-85kg), a beef forequarter (+/-50-60kg) or hindquarter (+/50-60kg) is huge. These men and even women, may lift their own body weight and more, in fast succession, over 2-3 hours depending on the delivery. It requires a certain type of stamina and spirit.
Sounds like “shova” (push), “phakamisa” (lift), “bamba”(hold), “twala” (carry) abound.
Very few people I know would be able to keep calm and carry on.
There is a definite rhythm and a sense of “ubuntu” as they breathe, lift, breathe, carry, breathe and pass on these mighty beasts. It is quite amazing to watch.
It is a physical task, so obviously vital in the chain, with very little recognition.
I tell them they are the “ingelosi ye nyama” – the angels of meat.
To me they are the bringers of protein, iron, zinc, B-vitamins and deliciousness!
For the first time they begin to smile, and swell with pride.
Having been in the industry for 7 years, I have often times experienced the flippant commentary and ignorance of retailers and consumers, who have no clue as to the background dynamics of getting their “steak to their plate”.
This is a tribute to those who do. To their strength, and their fortitude, and their guts.
Siyabonga Ingelosi Ye Nyama.
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