Lebanese Cause Du Jour: Rotten Meat

It happens every now and then that a case of mass hysteria spreads around Lebanon following an event that makes headlines. It happened in January when the Achrafieh building collapsed. The cause du jour at the time was our infrastructure. Does anyone remember the Achrafieh building and its victims today? No. Is anyone still concerned with the upheaval of our rent law? No. Is anyone still worried about the state of their building in Beirut? No.

It’s not really a “Lebanese” thing as it is a human thing. We have a short attention span to events and get carried away with hype. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when it comes to the rotten food situation in Lebanon, I have to ask: why the melodrama?

We are all entitled to worry about our health. If we didn’t, who would? But when it comes to the food incident, we are not the first country where such a thing happened and we won’t be the last. Besides, this wasn’t the first time that rotten food was found in Lebanon and it won’t be the last. Or doesn’t anyone remember when your mother panicked for a day or two about the chicken nuggets she was buying following a Kalem El Nes episode which was repeated a while later for extra emphasis?

The melodrama cannot but be heightened by the way our media handles such incidences. To many people, it seemed that all restaurants were in on it – buying cheap rotten meat and putting it in their burgers. TV shows discussing the incidence not only showed one side of the story: the rotten side, but they completely disregarded the fact that most Lebanese restaurants have high standards when it comes to handling their meat. I am not a journalist but shouldn’t someone who has studied journalism expose both sides of a story and not seek out a story just because of the ratings entailed? It happened before with Tony Khalife and his Lel Nashr show. Simply put: you know you’re overreacting when you go to a place like Roadster’s and are worried about the meat they have.

To put things into perspective, our consumption of meat yearly is about 400,000 tons. The rotten meat confiscated by the authorities was 185 tons. That’s less than half a percent. Maybe the problem is more widespread than just those 185 tons. But it remains that most of the meat we eat is not rotten. Most of the restaurants we go to are not filthy.

Perhaps the more interesting question to ask in the case of this rotten meat debacle is how this meat got detoured from Israel to Lebanon and who’s truly responsible, instead of putting all the blame on restaurants whose only fault was not to open a butcher shop in their premises to procure their meat.

Lebanon’s Chicken Hit With Deadly Virus

I actually come from a family who owns chicken farms both from my paternal and maternal sides. I grew up around family members highly involved with the little creatures, although I tend to stay away from anything I am not obliged to do with their regards.

Every month or so, my family has to bring in over 125,000 chicken to our farms and get them to grow to full size before they’re taken out and turned into food. Recently, there has been panic about a virus that has been blowing in from the Northern parts of the country, killing thousands of poultry in its path. My uncle likes to call it: the plague of the chicken.

I don’t mean to get anyone to freak out, not with all the rotten meat and cheese frenzy, but I have yet to see any major news outlet talk about the matter so I figured I would.

Only yesterday, one of the farms next to my uncle’s in our hometown, had ten thousand chicken die because of the virus. My uncle was lucky enough to have his current flock removed before the virus hit. My maternal uncle, however, may not be as lucky. Extra measures are currently being taken to ensure his 100,000 birds do not suffer dramatic losses as a result of the virus. Despite those measures, over 8000 have died overnight yesterday.

The “silver-lining” is that with this virus killing the chicken, the odds of it getting transmitted to people by consuming chicken are next to nothing.

However, it will lead to drastic shortages in chicken meat in the Lebanese market. In two short days, the price according to which my uncle’s chicken were sold jumped more half a dollar from $1.90 a kilo to $2.5 and it’s been increasing since then. Add this to another factor eating away at the wage increase.

With all the rotten meat, rotten cheese and now dead chicken, perhaps observing lent was actually a good idea this year? ‘Tis a good time to be a “devout” Christian apparently – or vegan.