Provisionary: R&D Live Poultry Market
New York Press
April 15, 2003
When New Yorkers buy their meat, it’s usually dead. Although meat consumption in this country is at an all-time high, many Americans have succeeded in disassociating themselves from the "death" aspect of meat eating. So what’s stranger: carrying your meat home when the carcass is still warm, or denying that the meat on your plate was alive to begin with?
Much like choosing a lobster from a tank, shoppers have the option to buy live poultry, rabbits, goats and lambs at a number of retail livestock markets in New York City. Permanand Raghoo opened such a market, R&D Live Poultry Market, in Ozone Park, Queens, in 1994, part of a rising trend in livestock sales in New York City that saw numbers soar from six markets in 1980 to 78 today. "This is all about fresh meat," says Raghoo. "That’s what it is."
Those who buy their poultry from live markets (mostly immigrants) cite flavor as the top advantage over store-bought chicken. The fresh kill is more distinctive, gamier and, according to fans, just plain better. While many Americans can’t imagine choosing a friendly-looking duck for dinner, those who frequent the markets wouldn’t consider eating shrink-wrapped meat from Gristedes.
R&D Live Poultry is a blocky cement structure, much like a garage or a warehouse, and is split into three components: a butcher shop, rooms for live animals and kill rooms where the slaughtering takes place. With its concrete and livestock, R&D Live Poultry at once fits in and is decidedly out of place in the urban environment.
If you’re not accustomed to being around livestock, you will first be struck by their nasty odor. Surprisingly, it’s the birds, not the beasts, that smell, well, foul. Bird droppings, bird urine, the cause is not quite clear, but the rank stench of live poultry would be the first deterrent to a live-market newcomer.
All livestock here is on display: hundreds of birds and caged rabbits sit in crates stacked one on top of another, while the goats and lambs commune in a holding pen scattered with fresh hay. Some might like to think that animals for the slaughter are somehow less "cute" or "cuddly" than ones, say, at a petting zoo, but they’ll be disappointed. All of the animals at R&D Live Poultry are fluffy, fuzzy and everything else that makes them worthy of children’s affection.
The process of selecting and killing an animal is fairly straightforward. The animal is weighed, you pay at the register, tell the clerk how you’d like it prepared (quartered or halved? head on or off? intestines in or out?) and wait while it’s slaughtered. Killing is done in the halal tradition, which means that a Muslim priest says a prayer, the animal is healthy, killed mercifully and cleaned properly. The process takes 20 minutes for poultry and up to 45 minutes for a beast.
R&D Live Poultry shares some traits with your regular supermarket: They accept major credit cards, and a cheerful sign near the entrance says, "Welcome and Thank You for Shopping at R&D’s Live Poultry."
As Raghoo eyes his livestock, a goat approaches the gate and gently nuzzles his hand. When asked if he thinks the animals know they’re going to be killed, Raghoo shakes his head. "Animals aren’t that smart."
R&D Live Poultry Market
104-16 101st St. (Liberty Ave.), Ozone Park, 718-738-6865