Local market honors cultural differences
On a recent Friday, a slender Sudanese-born man watched in Steve's Meat Market as a meat saw quickly diced up a lamb's carcass into stew meat.
"That's the easy way to do it," Gang Gang said with a smile. In his homeland, a large knife is used to carve up carcasses, he said.
The stew meat is the end result of the cultural convergence that is Steve's Meat Market.
Sudanese cousins Gang Gang and Ring Yol came to DeSoto to buy meat for their grandfather's funeral. They purchased three lambs at an open-air market behind the local locker plant earlier in the morning and watched as the animals were slaughtered.
Gang Gang explained Steve's Meat Market had a reputation among his people.
"We African people we come here all the time," Gang Gang said. "We just like the fresh meat. Meat from the store has too much chemical. It doesn't taste good."
African customers are only one segment of Steve Meat Market's unique clientele. More important to the business are Islamic customers. The locker plant is one of a handful in the country that provides Muslims with meat slaughtered by the laws of the Koran.
"Muslims can only eat meat that is halal," said Mitch Prudden, co-owner of the locker plant with his father, Steve. "Basically, it's a difference in how the animal is slaughtered. The animal is faced east toward Mecca. They say a prayer over it and cut its throat. It can't be an infidel who kills them."
The slaughtered livestock are then bled out, skinned and cut into stew meat, Prudden said.
Steve Prudden said he started slaughtering for Muslims about 20 years ago at the suggestion of a local Palestinian merchant. The nearest locker plant that offers halal meat is in St. Louis, he said.
For a time, the Palestinian provided the livestock that were slaughtered for halal meat.
That arrangement ended when customers complained the Palestinian middleman was taking too big a mark up, the elder Prudden said.
The Pruddens tried to supply the needed livestock, but eventually decided to rely on area farmers.
On the Friday Gang Gang visited Steve' Market, Mike Ray of Bonner Springs was the only supplier. Unfortunately for Ray, the weather was bad for business. The Sudanese cousins were the only customers.
"Normally, it's really busy on Friday and Saturday," he said. "It's standing room only on the dock."
Ray said he has gained skills over the years that would allow him to thrive in a Middle Eastern bazaar.
"There's a Third-World feel to it," he said. "We haggle over the price. It can get really interesting.
"I've been doing it for eight years. I know what they want. They like young male animals that haven't been touched not castrated."