The area surrounding Saris, Adey Ababa, is renowned for the throngs of people who sit in butcheries throughout the day to consume their fill of famous Ethiopian dishes, including raw meat and other meat-based dishes such as tibs and kitfo. It is normal for these butcher shops to be busy at all times of the day, especially two weeks after the end of fasting seasons such as Easter.
The consumption of raw-meat in Ethiopia is rooted in a centuries-old tradition, and it continues to be a dish that is enjoyed by many.
The past two weeks, however, have seen a decline in the number of people and customers frequenting the restaurants. Even the normally bustling restaurants have experienced a noticeable drop in patronage compared to the typical flow of people in that area over the past few years.
In other areas, such as Lebu, Addisu Gebeya, and other locations in and around Addis Ababa that are known for having popular butcheries, the typical flow of customers has reduced.
Though not for lack of want, this phenomenon of late has been linked to the rising prices seen in the sale of a kilo of meat as a result of the recent inflation of the economy. Inflation rates reached as high as 37 percent over the past few years before declining to around 33 percent currently, according to data from the Ethiopian Statistical Service (ESS). The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in the country’s north, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict all contributed to a worsening war economy that lasted two years.
Significantly fewer customers are going to butcheries to obtain the same satisfaction they once did. Instead, they are turning to other means of satisfaction or reducing the frequency of their visits.
In recent years, 62-year-old Tibebe Belachew, an avid consumer of raw meat and other meat-related dishes available in butcheries, has become reluctant to visit his favorite butcheries as frequently as he once did.
Normally, Tibebe would look forward to going to the butcheries multiple times per week to enjoy his favorite dish with friends, especially at the end of the fasting season. This year, however, he has only gone once, and for many reasons, he did not enjoy the experience as much as he used to.
“The price of a kilogram of meat was one of the primary reasons why I and the people around me stopped going to butcher shops. The last time I ordered a kilogram in Addis Ababa, it cost me 2,000 birr. “That is a great deal,” he said.
A few years ago, Tibebe would have paid approximately 500 birr for the same amount of raw meat, which made sense to him. Now he must pay four times the previous price for the same dish.
Although price is a major factor in Tibebe’s decision, who is financially classified as upper middle class, to stop eating the dish he adores, it is not the only reason he no longer buys meat from butchers as he once did in recent years.
“Even after spending so much money, the meat quality is not what it once was,” he said. He claims that the meat he used to eat was much more flavorful and delicious than it is now. The meat, he says, tastes almost watery and varies in flavor from trip to trip. “I’ve given up on finding a restaurant that serves high-quality meat; the situation is extremely discouraging.”
Today, Tibebe and his friends prefer to purchase a bull in groups of six or seven and share it in a traditional manner known as ‘Kircha’. Each person can take home between 30 and 40 kilograms of premium beef to cook however they like. It also allows them to avoid trips to butcher shops.
Tibebe, who also rears cattle, has the knowledge to select bulls raised through grazing on grass rather than those raised on modern cattle feed. He observed that it made a difference in the meat’s quality when selecting a bull to slaughter with his friends.
Yohannes Zewde, a 39-year-old man who lives with his wife and two small children in a middle-class household, has reduced the frequency with which he purchases meat from butcher shops. However, this had nothing to do with the quality of the meat in his eyes. Instead, it was because it has become prohibitively expensive over time.
Yohannes used to be able to purchase a kilogram of meat per week for his family, and he would occasionally dine with friends and family at butcheries so they could enjoy fresh meat and other meaty dishes.
He can no longer afford to do that as frequently as he once did. “It is too costly. If I want to purchase meat for the family, I only do so once or twice a month because it would be too expensive to do so every week.
The expensive nature and poor quality of the meat sold in butcheries throughout Addis are driving away many loyal customers and many other families who previously purchased meat from these butcheries. Instead, they are exploring alternative options, such as sheep or chicken, which are relatively cheaper.