The average Kenyan consumes 15 kilos of meat annually with Nairobi residents consuming two kilos more.
Nairobians eat more meat than their counterparts in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kajiado, Eldoret, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Makueni, Kakamega and Garissa.
This is according to the Meat End-Market Trends in Kenya study commissioned by the Kenya Markets Trust. The study shows that a majority of Kenyan families consume meat only once a week.
In the countrywide study conducted between July and November 2018, Kenya has a meat deficit of 300,000 metric tonnes annually.
The shortage makes it hard to satisfy the Kenyan meat demands, leading to the importation of meat from neighbouring countries.
Focusing on exports despite deficits locally
Despite the meat supply deficit at home, the Kenyan government has invested in a KShs2.1 billion livestock export quarantine centre by the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA).
The zone is expected to benefit up to 6.5 million livestock farmers with the first project being in Kibusu ranch, Tana River. The EPZA says that its 10-year quarantine strategy is expected to make KShs20 billion annually to pastoralists.
This ranch sits on 9,000 acres and it is expected to be ready by December.
The EPZA strategy is optimistic that three million heads of cattle are expected to be placed in the quarantine in the first seven years for fattening. This will take up to 18 months with projected growth to five million in the eighth to ten years.
To make sure that the livestock for export meets all the standards, they will be isolated at the quarantine for 21 to 30 days. During this period, the animals will undergo clinical and physical examinations.
The target livestock export market is the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East whose appetite for East Africa meat is high.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics recorded that marketed livestock and related products total value in Kenya grew by KShs10 billion to KShs135.6 billion in 2018 from KShs125.4 billion in 2016.
In the data, cattle and calves value were the highest in the livestock sector as of 2017 at Sh93.63 billion followed by Goats and Sheep at Sh6.78 billion.
The Kenyan meat study further highlights that per capita consumption of all types of meat was highest amongst the high and middle-income populations as compared to the low-income segments.
However, the total volume of meat consumed is highest amongst the low-income earners due to their numbers.
With regards to the type of meat consumed, there has been a significant change in the quantities of beef consumed in the market.
“While 67 per cent of Kenyans preferred to eat red meat in a similar 2009 study, today, less than a quarter of the respondents preferred to eat red meat over white meat. Ironically, consumers in the low-income segment eat more fish as compared to red meat,” notes the study.
This is triggered by the ability to buy cheap portions and products such as omena and fish remains which can be stretched to feed more people than the smallest units of red meat.
“The decline in red meat consumption can generally be attributed to the association of red meat with the high incidences of lifestyle diseases.”
Data from 2005 shows that meat imports into Kenya have been increasing hitting 2,292 tonnes in 2016.
Statistics from global organisation Knoema show that of these imports, 604 tonnes were bovine meats, pig meat was 1,307 tonnes and poultry at 345 tonnes.
These numbers show that the Kenyan meat market has enormous opportunities which are yet to be exploited.
According to Livestock PS Harry Kimutai, meat production in Kenya is mainly for domestic consumption.
The market, he says, is primarily urban and stratified according to disposal incomes.
“The meat industry is one of the fastest-growing within the agriculture sector. It is driven by the growth of meat exporters and the increases in population, urbanisation and household income,” Kimutai said.
The latest estimates show that Kenya’s average beef production is 408,000 tonnes annually. 70 per cent of this meat comes from the zebu cattle population from the arid and semi-arid areas.
To boost production, governors are pushing for tax reduction on animal feeds to improve the livestock sector earnings and create a competitive edge in the market.
The Council of Governors’ (COG) common position is that the Treasury be prevailed upon to zero-rate animal feed raw materials and the creation of a kitty to subsidise the agribusiness sector.
An additional boost to the sector comes from the World Bank which will spend KShs800 million on equipping slaughterhouses in four counties.
This is meant to promote the local and export market with the abattoirs being constructed in Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo and Mandera counties.
As part of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), Kimutai says the World Bank funds will be used to equip and upgrade the slaughter-houses to world-class status.
The abattoirs will be joining the other four in the country exporting meat to the Middle-Eastern countries.
Poison meat in Kenya’s supermarkets
An exposé by Kenya’s NTV in July revealed that meat sold in local markets is laced with dangerous chemicals to make it look fresh for longer. The meat in the report was preserved with excessive amounts of sodium metabisulphite posing health risks to consumers.
This was validated after a county government swoop on various outlets led to their closure. As of July 19, six meat retailers in the city closed down overuse of excess preservatives.
Health officials from the city-county said tests done by national laboratories prompted the closure of Naivas Mavoko, the Muthaiga Fine Meats Limited, Tuskys Buruburu and Tuskys Kenyatta Avenue.
Nairobi Health CEC Mohammed Dagane said, “The requirement is that the preservatives are used in limited amounts but these shops exceeded the amounts.”
According to Kenya’s Ministry of Health and the Nairobi County Public Health Department, 15 per cent of analysed meat samples from the capital were confirmed to contain the chemical.
Health Cabinet Secretary, Sicily Kariuki, said the affected outlets had also been closed and the meat destroyed.
Additionally, the governments say the affected outlets will be prosecuted, hinting at looming legal action against the offending retailers.
“All county public health departments to undertake heightened surveillance in all supermarkets, butcheries, meat processors and other food business operators,” said Kariuki adding that the surveillance was to ascertain any presence of additives not permitted for use in meat and meat products.
Following the revelation, Greenpeace Africa has called on the government of Kenya to act with Food Campaigner, Claire Nasike saying, “Meat laced with lethal chemicals on Kenya’s shopping aisles is a shocking revelation. This is the tip of the iceberg illustrating the brewing malpractices in the food industry. It is sad to see Kenya’s leaders politicising food issues instead of providing urgently needed solutions.”
Greenpeace Africa pointed an accusing finger at government agencies like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) which is reactive instead of being proactive.
“This is not the first time that investigators have found illegal additives and chemicals that go into foodstuffs sold in our local markets. The government needs to tighten measures on food safety as it is of national importance,” added Nasike.
Kenyans exposed to health risks
However, consumers are not getting full information on this association which is linked to post-slaughter handling of meat, proper use of the cold chain, consumption of meat immediately after slaughter, among others.
This is where unscrupulous dealers are adding preservatives to increase the shelf life of the meats.
The study further notes that meat buyers are keen on their health and often factor issues like drug residues, fear of lifestyle diseases, unhygienic handling of meat, meat from game animals, uninspected stolen animals and dead carcasses are major considerations on the type of meat they take home from the butcher.
It highlights that most of the decision making on the kind of meat to purchase is left to house managers and the females in the households.
There is also a great disconnect between the decision-makers, in this case, the household managers, on the quality of meat, where to buy and how much to spend and the actual buyers of the meat.
This study also indicates that consumers also prefer hot chain meat as compared to cold chain meat with many of the consumers preferring estate butcheries as compared to shopping for meat in the malls and supermarkets.
Butchers cited their preference for animals slaughtered from the Maasai ecosystem, ranches, Northern Tanzania, Uganda, and feedlots as these serve the needs of the middle-income segment and the nyama choma market.
Hospitals and academic institutions prefer lean animals which are largely sourced from all other pastoralist’s markets in the country.
There is limited awareness among the majority of consumers especially in the middle- and low-income segments on differentiated products like aged meat, ranch meat, pure grass-fed meat and special meat cuts hence consumers do not take these into consideration when purchasing meat.
The study cites an opportunity for nyama choma operators and fast-food restaurants to package roast meat for home delivery targeting high- and middle-income earners who are unable to go out for some reasons.
There is hence a knowledge gap regarding the benefits of cold chain beyond preservation.
“This necessitates consumer education to change these perceptions and enhance their level of understanding of meat quality,” notes the study.
When it comes to dietary choices, an estimated 100,000 Kenyans die annually due to cardiovascular diseases.
These diseases are majorly due to tobacco consumption and harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles.
Obesity due to unhealthy diets and inactivity in is also increasing in Kenya especially in the urban areas.