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Meat manufacturer seeks to open SF’s first slaughterhouse in four decades

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The Planning Commission will vote Thursday on a proposal for a San Francisco iteration of Saba Live Poultry, a family-run meat supplier with nine locations in the United States. (Courtesy photo)
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In an area once dubbed “Butchertown,” San Francisco could approve its first slaughterhouse since the 1970s.

A proposal for Saba Live Poultry to open in the Bayview District, just a few blocks from an area bounded by Cesar Chavez Street, Oakdale Avenue and Third Street that boasted a thriving meatpacking industry from the late 1800s to the 1960s, heads before the San Francisco Planning Commission on Thursday.

The concentration of more than a dozen slaughterhouses that operated in the Bayview had a “significant effect” on the district’s life and culture, “with Mexican and American vaqueros periodically driving livestock up Railroad Avenue and into the once-open pastures on Hunters Point ridge,” according to the Planning Department.

The “horn pile,” south of what is now Cesar Chavez Street, was a “well-known collection site for horns and hooves,” said Lisa Dunseth, program manager for the Book Arts and Special Collections Center at the San Francisco Public Library.

The proposed slaughterhouse at 1526 Wallace Ave. is part of a national, family-run meat supplier franchise, which already manages eight locations on the East Coast and one in Oakland.

While other locations sell livestock ranging from rabbits, veal and poultry to sheep and lamb, the San Francisco location would be limited to poultry, should a conditional use permit for the site be approved by the Planning Commission.

“We are mainly selling chicken and ducks because there is not enough space,” said Ali Mused, brother of the Oakland’s Saba Live Poultry owner Abdulsalam Mused, who will also be heading the San Francisco slaughterhouse. Customers will be able to purchase living or slaughtered animals at the facility.

Mused was unable to confirm how many animals will be processed daily at the San Francisco facility. At its Oakland facility, animals are shipped in daily and spend at maximum “one night” at the slaughterhouse, he said.

The project has been recommended for approval by the Planning Department, but animal rights activists have taken issue with a proposed revival of animal processing factories in the neighborhood.

“As it stands, the Department lacks an adequate legal basis for approving the conditional use of 1526 Wallace Ave. as a livestock processing facility,” reads a complaint submitted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is calling for an environmental impact review.

The group claims converting the building into a livestock sale and processing facility is not in line with current development plans for the Bayview, and will have “significant environmental effects” in terms of air and wastewater emissions, waste disposal, environmental justice and animal welfare violations.

In October, protesters from the group Direct Action Everywhere stormed the meat supplier’s Oakland facility to remove animals from their cages. Despite that opposition, Mused said he does not expect any problems with operating in San Francisco.

“We have no problems with our neighbors [in Oakland],” he said. The meat manufacturer is certified as Halal, meaning the animals must be healthy at the time of their slaughter and are killed by a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe.

“We have to give them a peaceful death,” he said. “We don’t cut the whole neck off.”

Part of that process is blessing the animals with a prayer — “God is great,” in Arabic — before their slaughter, according to Mused.

In an effort to curb unpleasant odors, the 2,100-square-foot space will be completely enclosed, and the project must “include air cleaning or odor control equipment details and manufacturer specifications on the plans,” said Candace SooHoo, a spokesperson for the Planning Department.

Processing and selling livestock is permitted under the area’s zoning regulations, SooHoo said, but a building permit must be obtained before construction can begin.

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