Cardiologists always advise to avoid fatty red meat. Health conscious eaters above the age of 35, particularly the cardiovascular patients, often cook meat after removing fat from it.
What is done with the removed fat? Dumping it in the trash as a food residue is a common practice. But when the residues contain recycle value, stockpiling fat or tallow in a pot would be an informal source of family earning.
There are tallow collectors who work as a bridge between the collection at family homes and the industry where tallow is used as an ingredient for making laundry soaps.
Mohammad Sajahan, Salahuddin, Rahamat and some other 50 tallow collectors are regular suppliers of tallow to the warehouses in Old Dhaka. These people play an important role in the recycling chain.
Every week the tallow collectors, two or three in a group, roam around the residential areas in Dhaka on rickshaw vans in search of semi-solid tallow.
Their yells asking charbi achhe?… charbi? (do you have stock of tallow?) is a familiar one.
While beef or mutton is cooked, before adding spices to the dish, white tallow floats over the water. Otherwise, yellowish tallow needs to be extracted from cooked meat. Hence, two types of fat are generated from the kitchens.
"We collect tallow from the residential areas in Lalbagh, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Rampura, Badda, Malibagh, Khilgaon, Jatrabari and many other localities. Usually, we revisit an area after two or three-month interval, so that the primary suppliers can stockpile tallow," said Sajahan.
During the first half of the day, Sajahan sells fish in Old Dhaka-based wet markets. After lunch, he collects tallow or scrap metal.
He said that a primary supplier gets Tk35 maximum in exchange of one kilogram of tallow.
The tallow collectors sell the item to mahajans or wholesalers at Tk45 per kg. The mahajan resells each kilogram of tallow to the soap factory agents at Tk48 per kg.
Between Eid-ul-Adha and 20 days afterward is the peak season of the business. During the season, the cumulative daily collection of tallow by a group of three reaches even to 200 kilograms. Rest of the days in a year, such group could collect on an average 50kg to 60kg of tallow per day.
When the supply of tallow is high, a number of occasional wholesalers appear in the market, though, there are a few all-season wholesalers in Kasaituli and Shaheednagar in Old Dhaka.
On weekly basis, the wholesalers resell the tallow to soap factory agents.
Wholesaler Md Salauddin, proprietor of Sazzad Enterprise at Pashchim Shaheednagar, told The Business Standard, "Around 14 collectors supply tallow to my warehouse. Collectively they can add a maximum of 450kg tallow to the stock a day. When the stock surpluses five tonnes, I resell them to the soap factory agents".
Mohammad Falan, another tallow wholesaler from the same area, said that he resells tallow worth of Tk4-5 lakh in a month.
None of the Shaheednagar-based tallow warehouses has individual space larger than 50 square-feet and the interior of them is almost same – poorly decorated with shelves, discoloured walls and a mandatory weighing scale.
The wholesalers profit six per cent at the total sales, Salauddin said.
Once, some Old Dhaka-based localities neighbouring to the Hazaribagh Tannery Estate were the hub of tallow trading. However, due to the falling demand of tallow competing with the aggressive market of detergent (washing powder), the number of tallow traders is dwindling now.
According to the wholesalers, there are less than 10 fully operating warehouses of tallow in Dhaka at present.
Seven years ago, Salauddin used to purchase tallow at Tk55 per kg from the collectors and sold them to agents at Tk75 rate.
"Although the business is not profiteering like the previous time, I cannot shift myself from this profession at my 55. My son Sazzad will never join this business. I am a cardiovascular patient and still I am continuing with this, following the growing awareness against fat-free meat," Salauddin said.