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This is a typical picture of a market in Romania. It shows a large space, filled with stalls of vegetable, fruit and meat sellers with many people waiting to be served. It also features hanging carcasses of lambs waiting to be carved for people looking to buy for the Easter weekend. When I posted this image on my Facebook, it got a lot of my vegetarian and vegan friends going. Some said they couldn’t handle it, others asked if they were dogs, and the overall feeling was that this picture wasn’t acceptable. It’s a normal picture of a pre-Easter lamb sale in our local market, where most Romanians in the city do their shopping.
Here’s the thing: this is totally normal, especially here in Romania. These lambs, born this winter, cared for by shepherds who lived closely with them for their whole life. They were kept with their mothers, who lived in a free-ranging herd, and lived pretty natural lives. Some Romanians love lamb for the holiday. It is a traditional food, after all. These lambs were probably slaughtered either that morning or the day before, and inspected by government officials before being offered for sale. The farmers selling these lambs will use the money locally to boost the local economy.
I understand the ideas behind vegetarianism and veganism, but this is as good as you can get meat consumption.
A typical Easter market in Romania will shock many Americans, since a seasonal specialty is lamb and the carving happens right in front of you. But let’s take a look at the cold facts about farming and food production in Romania:
Romania produced and slaughtered 705 tons of livestock in 2014. That’s about 217,794 animals. The most consumed animals as they are ranked: chickens, pigs, sheep, and finally cows. (Eurostat Statistics Explained)
Romania exported 54.4 tons of livestock for sale outside the country in 2013. They consumed 1,300 tons in-country. That means they consume most of what they eat. For such a small country, that’s pretty good. (Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia)
Because of European law, all foods need to be labeled with the country of origin for consumers in grocery stores. There is a strong culture of only eating in-season and only produce grown in Romania. I see again and again the Romanian garlic and apples being sold out while Spanish and Greek products are left on the shelves. In the U.S. I remember having to inspect those tiny stickers on produce to find where it came from, and often buying out of season.
There is a strong connection between consumer and produce in Romania, and that their meat comes from a live animal is definitely understood. Most of these animals live better lives than anything you would find on the shelves in the U.S. Most of their food comes from down the road, not from across a sea. While these images may be unpleasant for most Americans to look at, it is common here in Romania, and is extremely positive for consumerism.
Have you ever seen something in your local market that shocked you? Let’s get a list going of your local consumer curiosity that might seem normal to you but strange to tourists.
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