Texas Guard Improves Meat Processing in Afghanistan
By Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah Webb
Special to American Forces Press Service
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Sept. 22, 2009 A Texas-based National Guard agribusiness development team is working here to ensure Afghans are using the best practices in the farming and food industries.
Army Col. Harlan Harris, commander of the Texas Agribusiness Development Team-02, observes the processing of a sheep at the Ghazni Slaughter Facility. Officials created agribusiness teams to assist the Afghans in rebuilding their agriculture infrastructure. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Texas Agribusiness Development Team-02 at Forward Operating Base Ghazni recently travelled through the province to inspect a slaughter facility, and met with contractors for a livestock sale barn facility and a solar and wind power system.
“There are several slaughter facilities being contracted throughout the province,” said Army Sgt. Todd Plybon, a soil scientist from 143rd Infantry Regiment, Detachment 9 from Austin, Texas. “These facilities are being built so that the butchers in the province will have a suitable location to conduct business.”
“Prior to the build of the slaughter facility, butchers were [processing] the animals in their shops and in the streets,” added Army Maj. John Plouch, a Guardsman from Texas assigned to the team. “Oftentimes, the blood would drain into the streets, causing a sanitation issue.”
Also, Plybon said, “The current slaughter facility that the Ghazni butchers are using is not as efficient as it could be.”
A second, more complex facility for handling cattle was proposed and submitted for approval.
While at the facility, the team documented “qurbani,” the Muslim process for slaughtering animals.
“Understanding the cultural aspects of [processing] the animals will aid the [agribusiness team] in designing and building slaughter facilities that better meet the needs of those involved in the process,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Harlan Hardy, the team’s noncommissioned officer in charge.
The new slaughter facility allows the Afghan government to monitor the quality of meat and regulate health concerns by having a registered veterinarian on site to evaluate animals prior to and after slaughter.
The team’s goal is to determine the facilities butchers need for future projects. The team also looks into supplying other items to assist butchers with slaughtering the animals, such as tip tables, chain winches, cold storage and other meat-processing tools, Plybon said.
The solar and wind power system is designed to provide electrical power for the livestock sale barn.
The Texas team’s projects are determined through requests by the Ghazni director of agriculture and through village elders.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah Webb serves with the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)