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Friday, February 22, 2013

Knowing Where Your Food Comes From

In Canada, when shopping for meat, I just went to the local grocery food chains (Safeway, Save-On Foods, etc.) and bought chicken, beef or pork already cut up, laid out nicely on a styrofoam plate and plastic wrapped. All you had to do was pick out the package you wanted. There were butchers available but mostly I never interacted with them. Everything was clean and neat and you might never think about where these pieces of meat actually came from.

Here in our small town of Atenas, surrounded by farms, it is a different matter. There are no packages of pre-wrapped meat. You will have to ask the butcher for what you want. All the different cuts are laid out in the coolers in front of you so you can point, but you still have to ask for the amount. I can finally order the amount of ground beef I want, how many chicken breasts, and how much fish. By the way, the smoked pork chops are really good.

The other thing that might take a bit of getting used to by the sanitized people of North America are the hanging carcasses. They are in every grocery that has a meat department. You might see a butcher busily stripping a beef carcass of different cuts. I thought this might bother me a lot, but it hasn't. It's the way it is and hiding the fact behind plastic wrap doesn't change anything. We ate meat in Canada and we eat meat in Costa Rica. It's just that in North America things are "prettied up" so we didn't have to think of the animal the meat was coming from.

The other day I decided to buy beef bones for Scruffy, the adopted neighborhood dog. I went to the Atenas Centro market (the one opposite the taxi stands). This is the place to buy great seafood, produce and meat all week long. The Tres Hermanas (The Three Sisters) soda is always busy. We've eaten there numerous times. There are also several other sodas that attract a lot of business, shops that sell shoes, leather goods, and so on. On one side of the indoor market are, I think, four butcher shops (might be five, didn't count). I decided to go to the last one for no good reason.

I asked for tres hueso para perro (three bones for a dog) but ended up with three kilos of bones! Oh well. So there was this large bovine carcass hanging that they were breaking down and they told me it would be a few minutes. There was also a sheep and pig carcass. It's a busy butcher shop. People were coming and going, picking up their orders. There must have been four or five workers in the shop. They have a big band saw in the middle where they run the carcasses through to cut them up. Children were there with their parents so they certainly know where their meat comes from.


I got 3 kilos of good beef bones for 2 mil ($4.00 CAD). Put them all in the freezer to kill any nasties, then cooked them. Scruffy gets one bone every few days. Apparently he is taking them up to our neighbour's house, chowing down on them, them burying them at their place. I guess their soil is not as rock hard as ours is at the moment ... we need rain.





  1. Interesting post. As a biologist & former instructor for human anatomy, and having grown up in Europe, where 'butcher practices' used to be similar to CR, I never noticed anything different. It had not occurred to me, how different it could be for norte americanos. PS Scruffy is adorable!

  2. It´s always good to be reminded that North America is not the only place in the world. It´s so important to be exposed to many other customs, foods and ways of doing things.

    Yes, Scruffy is a doll ... must have some terrier in him. His manners are perfect. We wonder where he came from, what his original name was ....