I know I am preaching to the choir, but sometimes we all need to stop and say thank you. It is my turn to do that.
I have just returned from two weeks in Uganda. My trip spanned three different areas: Kampala, Uganda’s capital and only metropolitan area; Lira, a medium-size city 200 miles north and a bit east of Kampala; and the very desolate villages of Northern Uganda where there is no electricity, plumbing or asphalt roads, just extremely bumpy dirt roads with huge ruts carved by the recent rainy season.
My trip afforded me the opportunity to visit a couple of grocery stores in the capital city and witness how meat is sold in a mid-size town and in villages. In the remote areas, meat is a treat that’s saved for celebratory events and special holidays. The preparations for such a meal harken back to the early 20th century in the United States, when young boys were taught the art of catching, slaughtering and handing over meat to the women of the community for cooking.
So what did I miss about home while I was there? Lots of things (like a hot shower!), but given my profession, I found myself often thinking about what the U.S. meat industry is very good at:
- Safety – I don’t question the safety of the meat I buy at a grocery store or order at a restaurant. The industry’s track record has proven that I don’t need to worry about the protein on my plate.
- Variety – I appreciate very much that I can eat only what I choose to and don’t have to figure out how to consume an entire animal when I want to eat some protein.
- Taste – Thanks to the reliability of electricity and refrigeration, we can enjoy meat prepared to bring out its best taste, not cooked to a very high temperature for a very long time just to make it safe to eat.
My trip provided me with the opportunity to eat a variety of proteins: beef, pork, lots of chicken, some goat and even a few termites. One thing the Ugandans know better than the average American is where their meat comes from. Even in Kampala it was not unusual to see live chickens hanging upside down from bodas (small motorcycles) on their way to become someone’s dinner. At one point I was walking and had to scoot out of the way of cattle that were meandering unattended past me!
So as I re-enter life here in the states, I want to pause and count my blessings for all the hard workers in our meat supply chain – the farmers and ranchers, the packing plant line workers and the supermarket stockers – for the work they do that allows me to enjoy the best meat in the world!
I think I will go have a steak – medium doneness please!