No slaughter houses, only meat halls in our ancient cities: Ghent as an example (1251-1857)

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L. Devriese

Published Aug 31, 2020

Abstract

Slaughter houses did not exist in mediaeval European cities. Butchers sold meat to customers in specially build ‘meat houses’, covered market places, in which each master, member of the butchers guild, was alotted a ‘table’ or stall (French: étale). These halls were built by the cities and remained public property throughout. Typically, a butcher bought a cow on the local cattle market, led it to his own premises somewhere in town, to have it slaughtered and to prepare meat parts. These were sold in the meat house of his guild. A butcher was not allowed to slaughter for third parties. General and local regulations similarly prohibited him to sell in a shop of his own. In the present paper, this way of proceeding is demonstrated by a story about a conflict in 1637 on the cattle market between two master butchers about the sale of a heifer. The illustrations show the old cattle (beast) market and the still existing meat hall (first mentioned in 1251).


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