Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Tibet Travel log 17: The cheap-meat-season

with 2 comments

tibet_nomads_yak_in_snow2
.
After Losar, the Tibetan New Year which is celebrated this week, the cheap-meat-season will start.

At the end of the winter season when the grasslands are still frozen and covered with snow it is hard for the yaks to find sufficient forage, even the hay stored at the winter homes of the nomads will be in short supply.

The winter in 2010 was especially long and when I visited a nomad family in April of that year, a yak was dying every second day. It were mostly the young ones born during the previous season and the pregnant females. This family had about 75 yaks, so they were eagerly awaiting the start of the spring and the appearance of green grass. If the spring were to arrive much later it could make a big dent in the size of their herd.

Although sometimes spring arrives early, each year during March and April the meat is cheap. The meat from the yaks that starve is in abundance and not of good quality, it is very tough and only eatable when chopped up in tiny pieces. One is lucky to find a wolf-killed animal as the meat might still be decent. In the small towns where the nomads go for their shopping they try to sell the meat and yak-skin in the street. Cheaply.  Yak meat that would normally cost around 25 yuan per kilo, would now be sold for 5 yuan (about 0,50 Euro). The exception would be the time around Losar when meat is in high demand for the Losar celebrations and prices would go up.

The nomads do not only come to town to sell the meat, they also buy their groceries especially milk for the tea. At this time of year the yaks do not have milk, it is at least another month before the first yaks start to calve and that there would be a tiny bit of yak milk available for human consumption. I saw a small 250 ml bottle being filled drop by drop by milking several yaks in April. A small bottle of yak-milk at that time of year is a priced possession and precious gift, and being able to obtain the first lovely thick fat yak-yoghurt of the year is a happy event!

I am of course used to supermarkets where milk and meat products are provided all year around. So it was quite a surprise to be confronted with the seasonality around milk and meat supply for the first time. But it made some good conversations and the Tibetans were amazed by the productivity of the Dutch cows that give 15 to 20 liters of milk a day all year around. They asked me what the Dutch cows looked like. That was an easy question, I only had to point at the milk carton that featured a graphic drawing of a black and white cow in a very green meadow. They were very surprised, I think they never considered that cows could really look like that and they had to laugh when I said these cows would not survive a single week on the high grasslands in wintertime!
.
tibet_nomads_yak_in_snow
.
Tibet_nomads_skinning_yak
Skinning a yak that died of exhaustion and starvation at the end of the winter season. The intestines and the little meat still on the bone was fed to the dogs (Kham 2010).

Advertisements

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

February 15, 2013 at 15:26

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I have just recently entered the blog world. Skeptical at first, I am happily surprised to have discovered your blog. Not only because of the skill that you with letting the photo tell a story, but also the story that you tell with your words. Thank you for your efforts. Raven

    Raven Cypress Wood

    February 17, 2013 at 16:35

    • Thank you. It always a bit of effort to write a blog, I am a photographer and not really a writer. But I found out that I really enjoy the writing part as well, although there is always a bit of stress when my (self-imposed) weekly deadline comes up. So it is very encouraging to receive such a nice comment.

      Marieke ten Wolde

      February 18, 2013 at 16:27


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: