Where your beef comes from

URDANETA CITY – Long before the country embraced the principles of capitalism, it was already being practiced in this city that has come to be known as the province’s main trading post.
On any given week, traders from Cagayan to Masbate arrive in this city at the heart of eastern Pangasinan aboard their trucks and jeepneys to buy and sell cattle.
It was a different scene half a century ago, when herders and traders on horseback or on carabaos came here to peddle their wares. The same spirit of commerce, however, survived throughout the decades.
Mayor Amadeo Perez IV says merchants from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and from as far as Cagayan, Batangas and Metro Manila still come here to trade their cattle.
He says he does not see the city’s cattle market, a long-established tradition in Barangay Anonas here, disappearing anytime soon.
“We have the biggest cattle exchange in Northern Luzon and traders have gotten used to coming here through the years,” he says.
The vegetable bagsakan (trading post) has become an added attraction to merchants, he says.
The cattle exchange is open from Thursday to Saturday, with Friday being the busiest day of the week. On trading days, the air is tainted with the pungent smell of thousands of cows brought in by traders.
At least 1,000 heads of cattle are traded here weekly. During peak months from September to May, the number of traded animals rises.
Efren de Vera, cattle market supervisor, says free enterprise is practiced here, with vendors and buyers setting their own prices. This way, prices are cheaper because no individual or agency is controlling the market.
“The regular price for a yearling cow is P18,000 to P20,000 each,” says De Vera.
Vendors range from locals raising cattle in their backyard to mass producers, while buyers may be individuals merely looking for cows to roast for a feast or middlemen buying cattle in bulk for big companies manufacturing corned beef and similar products.
Cattle sold here may either be for slaughter or breeding purposes, De Vera says.
Perez says the local government of Urdaneta City, some 186 kilometers north of Metro Manila, earns at least P3.6 million a year, or P300,000 monthly, from taxes collected from the cattle market.
“Many residents here also earn their living from acting as middlemen for big companies,” he says.
Perez adds that a cleaning team is employed by the city government to ensure the sanitation of the 3.5-hectare cattle market. At least 20 employees are also tasked by the city to organize and maintain the operations of the facility, while others examine the condition of animals to ensure that only high-quality stocks are sold in the market.
Together with cattle, the trading of carabaos, goats and horses is also done in the market, but in smaller quantities.
De Vera says carabaos are sold between P18,000 and P20,000 each, horses fetch between P6,000 and P7,000 each and goats sell for P2,000 to P2,5000 each.
Perez says the city holds its cattle market in high regard, making its preservation and improvement a top priority because it helped push Urdaneta’s progress and its bid to become a city back in 1998.
In fact, the cattle trade is so important that the city seal takes the form of the head of a carabao – a fitting tribute to one of Urdaneta’s most vital industries.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer