At the Meat Market

Because our normal (sort of Western style) grocery store had a fire a month ago we’ve had the opportunity to explore other shopping venues. After crowd sourcing how to buy meat at a butcher on Facebook, we gathered our diagrams and our courage and went to shop like a local.

This is about half of the meat market.

We went toward the end of the day so there wasn’t a lot of meat left but there was enough. I saw a sign that said (in Mongolian) “cow meat” and went for it. I pointed to the neck part of my cow diagram, she pointed to a couple different sizes of meat slabs in her freezer, I chose one, she weighed it and charged me ₮21,000 (about $8 USD) before putting it in a plastic bag (like the two handle plastic back you’d pack your groceries in).

Then I walked over to the meat grinder and handed her my bag-o-meat. She asked me what size I wanted: small, medium, or large. No one warned me I had options for grinding. I was not prepared for this. The lady who had just gotten her meat ground suggested zero, or small. I said okay and that it didn’t really matter (this all happened in Mongolian with the mild anxiety that accompanies speaking in my second language).

She emptied my bag onto the top of the grinder and put my empty bag to catch the thinly ground meat. She then chopped it up and turned on the machine. As it ground the meat she shoved it down the hole chunk by chunk with a wooden dowel. At one point in this short process she got a phone call. She took of her gloves to answer it, tucked it in between her ear and shoulder, and talked while she continued grinding the meat.

So then I had a bag of finely ground meat. I paid just under 20 cents for this service. I think I got about 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) of ground beef for about $8 USD. That’s only a little cheaper than I would have gotten it in the US. Meat prices have been increasing pretty drastically recently; it’s most concerning for people at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

But, for today, we’re going to celebrate that I bought meat at the meat market. Like a normal person. And I’d like to thank every person who commented on my Facebook post about how to pick a cut of beef. Without you all, this process would have been more difficult and I would have procrastinated much longer. Thank you for being part of my journey and making it a little bit easier.

4 thoughts on “At the Meat Market

  1. I used to work in a small store where we ground our hamburger each day. We also trimmed sides of beef (hanging them on big metal meathooks by the tendon that runs near the back of their hind leg) into steaks of all sorts, roasts, etc. My greatest joy was when I had to trim the fat off of some nice steaks, because I would stash that fat to be added to the meat what would be ground into the hamburger I was going to purchase. The”secret” to the flavor of ground beef is the fat that is a part of the process… You are experiencing the “real world of meat” – something very alien to most modern shoppers!


    1. It is funny to me that something so new and intimidating is so normal and everyday, not to just Mongolians but to some people in the USA too. I have a couple of friends who are butchers in Michigan even though it is so foriegn to me. But you’re right, every time I make a decision to eat more like my local friends, it’s a decision to eat food that is grown nearby and closer to scratch, and “real,” and most likely, healthier. I’m just glad I’m allowed to learn one step at a time and that people are kind with my ignorance.


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