Jamie's America New York City Episode Shows Scary Inner Workings of a Queens Slaughterhouse [video]

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The latest episode of Jamie's America had Jamie Oliver in New York City — specifically, Queens. Over the course of his visit, he checks out the Kabab Cafe in Astoria, eats at an illegal Peruvian restaurant run out of an apartment in Jackson Heights, spends time with a saintly man who feeds homeless illegal immigrants, enthusiastically partakes in an "underground supper club," and helps prepare some Chinese food in Flushing, all in preparation of hosting his own "anti-restaurant" supper. It's all fine and good, a view of New York City that most New Yorkers don't even experience.

But amidst all the bonhomie and back-slapping, we were shocked by the disturbing footage of Jamie's visit to a live-animal slaughterhouse. The shots are full of clear health code violations — relatively minor and correctable, to be sure (smoking, meat on the floor), but Jamie's internal chef alarm should have gone off. Maybe it did, the look he gives the camera after pointing out the head and feet lying in a pile on the ground is priceless. But after calling the slaughterhouse "proper old school," he purchases meat which he then serves to other people.

The premise of the series as a whole is that Jamie's in America as an innocent observer. After being criticized by an animal rights group for castrating a bull using a more "old school" technique in a previous episode, Oliver's spokesman defended him, saying, "Jamie is on his American road trip to observe and to learn and to show the viewing public some parts of America they might not know about." So why show this footage? To gross out the public? To make New York City look bad? To shame whatever agency is responsible for New York slaughterhouses into cracking down on practices like these? Jamie Oliver is known as an effective and dedicated animal rights supporter — his recent campaign in the UK to improve pig welfare in Jamie Saves Our Bacon comes to mind.

Here are a couple of videos: the first of Oliver in the slaughterhouse, the second of him learning how to make Dan Dan Noodles.

Video: Jamie's America: Live-Animal Slaughterhouse in Astoria

Video: Jamie's America: Dan Dan Noodles in Flushing

Also see bonus video footage of Oliver getting a glimpse of what its like to run a street cart in New York City.

—Raphael Brion

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7 Comments

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  1. Wow. At first, after reading your post, I decided not to watch the video, but how can I leave a comment without seeing what you're discussing? So I watched it. And understand your obvious concerns.

    Killing and cleaning animals on a farm for consumption by the family is one thing, but when you sell to the public, certain expectations arise -- like sanitation. Must say the operation looked cleaner than I would have expected. They knew cameras were coming?

    Glad you covered this. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise as I'm not a Jamie Oliver show-watcher. Thanks.

  2. S

    I never knew there was a Trader's Joe in Queens. Now there's a slaughterhouse!!!!????? The more we know...

  3. I've been a regular customer of that slaughterhouse for years, and in fact suggested it to the producers (I'm one of the supper-club crew in another segment). Fine, it's not the most photogenic place, but it's a clean operation run by people who care, and the meat is excellent.

    It's well documented that any meat you buy in a grocery store was killed in far nastier and less sanitary conditions--conditions I can't see. At this place, I can walk in, pick out the healthiest animal, and have it killed and butchered in 10 minutes.

    I've watched the whole process, and it's not like they're mopping up the hooves off the floor and serving them to people in hot dogs...which I'm certain is what happens in high-volume commercial slaughterhouses.

    As Jamie says, people should know where their meat comes from. I tend to think that if you don't like the idea of live animals being killed on demand, then maybe meat-eating is not for you.

    • James

      I don't know Zora, you say clean, but I see the guys smoking in a place where butchery occurs. I see animals running around on the same floor where dead animal parts are lumped into a pile. And that's what they allowed the camera crew to record! I can't imagine what goes on in that place behind closed doors, when no one else is around.

      There are rules and laws about health and sanitation, and that's so people don't get sick and fucking die. Feel free to keep shopping there though!

  4. maxpickle

    Love the show & Jaime but, I wish it could be longer. The segments seemed edited down too much.
    Zora- It would have been great to see more of the cooking and food you guys did. He obviously really enjoyed it. I am sure they care as you say but,rarely is food poisoning done on purpose . It's usually from accidental cross contamination & mishandeling of food.
    Regardless,fowl shouldn't be freerangin' around slautered meat...
    and,... the cigarette hanging from his mouth?!
    Someone should have given them a heads up about the cameras.
    Sadly, I smell a health inspection coming...

  5. Joe DiStefano

    umm it's dan dan noodles not "dang dang!"

  6. I hear ya. I'm sure there are regulations they're breaking. (Though I have never seen anyone smoking around the _dead_ animals!) But I still trust this place a lot more than some giant Midwestern meatpacking operation, and I'd hate to see it shut down while nasty-ass mega-scale butchery gets a free pass just because no one actually sees it.

    So I'll continue to get my meat there until I get sick, which I'm pretty confident will be never...

    BTW, there was a great story in Gourmet in July 2007 about a halal fresh-kill place in Brooklyn. Not online, unfortunately.

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