Descended from a long line of butchers dating back to the 1700’s, Saïd scopes out the region’s largest livestock markets seven days a week, scouting cattle and sheep as owner of one of Algeria’s largest private abattoirs.
"In the past my ancestors walked to the markets of the area on foot,” the 30-year-old told El Watan.com, adding that in those days, only sheep were butchered for consumption. “Then my father once started his own butchery and we grew little by little. “With the arrival of large factories, state-owned enterprises, high schools, army canteens since the late 1970s, the red meat market … exploded."
Beef was previously considered a luxury item; when Algerians’ standard of living rose, people began to consume beef more regularly. While butcher shops are common, the source of the meat often remains undisclosed, lacking “traceability.”
Saïd’s family manages an operation requiring approximately 300 head of cattle and nearly 2,000 head of sheep every month. Thus, he shops marketplaces in Bouira, El Eulma, Bouktob, Naâma and Oued Souf, traveling at dawn to track down inventory for the business’ large-scale clients: schools, universities, large companies and caterers.
The marketplace business is conducted with a high degree of trust, he said, regardless of outward appearances and occasional “shabby” dealings. El Eulma, for example, is regarded among Algeria’s capitals of “the informal,” with large-scale trades often casually sealed with just a nod of the head.
"Here, there is a relationship of trust between sellers and buyers,” Saïd told El Watan.