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Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

Kenya: City crowds take the choma' culture to the village

by December 23, 2016 General

Sports and Culture in charge John Ochieng of Safeguard Orphans and Widows Foundation (SOWOF) delivers a goat labelled for Christmas festivities to orphans and widows at Toy Market in Kibera, Nairobi county on December 23,2016. The organization is determined to ensure the needy also have a taste of soup on the day when Christians around the world will be making merry. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)

The next few festive days will, for the only time in the year, see more meat consumed in rural areas than in Nairobi.

It may also, again a rare thing, see the consumption of goat meat overtake beef as city crowds take the ‘choma’ culture to the village.

Experts from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) say despite the ‘goat roast’ hype in Nairobi, beef remains the most eaten meat in Kenya. Seventy seven per cent of all meat eaten in Kenya is beef and mainly at home, ILRI says in a new study.

“Sheep and goat meat are not widely consumed and when eaten, it is mainly by the middle and high-income groups as roasted meat,” the experts say.

Two recent studies by several research institutions, led by ILRI, makes it clear that meat is the most relished food item by city residents. ILRI estimates that on average, a Kenyan consumes 17 kg of meat per year. But of these, city residents consume almost four times more than their rural counterparts.

While taste is the main driver of the city’s crave for meat, money is the main determinant of where and who eats what meat. One of the two studies led by Caroline Bosire of ILRI and the University of Twente, The Netherlands, shows meat in Nairobi to follow the whiff of money. The choicest cuts are to be found in Karen, Kilimani, Lavington, Parklands and Kitisuru.

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Residents here have their unique lingo for meat such as prime aged beef, sirloin steak, cubed steak, tenderloin, ox tail and others such as brisket or shank.

They are followed by the less choosy middle class, the king of ‘nyama choma’ in the city. The ILRI study shows this class to live at Highridge, Roysambu, Umoja, Embakasi and Kasarani. This class will address their meat in amounts of kilos for choma, tumbukiza, or boilo with lots of cabbages, kales, potatoes, dania (coriander) and a generous dose of hot pepper. Of course, the choma will go with a helping of ugali or kienyenji and a cover of kachumbari. The female in this class are most likely to take home a slaughtered chicken for the family.

The final group is the city poor who in most cases eat the pass overs, including entrails and extremities such as chicken head, toes, udders, chicken skin and gumboots. This last line of meat eaters, the research indicate, are concentrated in areas of Dandora, Kariobangi, Kawangware, Kangemi and all slum areas.

This people, the poor of Nairobi, are the subject of the second study led by Laura Cornelsen of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published last month in the BMC Nutrition journal.

Cornelsen and her team mates from ILRI, The Royal Veterinary College (UK), African Population and Health Research Center (Nairobi) and the University of Liverpool (UK) focused on consumption of meat, egg and milk in Dagoretti and Korogocho areas of Nairobi.

More than half of the households in Korogocho, the study says, earn Sh5,000 monthly but still manage to bring to the table a semblance of meat. But this is no mean achievement. For example, if one day the Korogocho earner decided to treat self on an aged Marindat T-bone steak on the grill at the Sankara Hotel, it would cost him a one and a half month’s salary at Sh7, 000.

Going by the study, the poor of Dagoretti and Korogocho spend Sh1,372 on food weekly of which Sh520 is on animal protein with meat taking the lion’s share.

But Vicky, who works for an international NGO in Nairobi, and gets her meat cuts at Gilani’s in Westlands cannot understand how Sh520 could buy any meat let alone for a family for a whole week.

This is how some of the poor do it: At Mutiso’s chicken slaughter kiosk at South B, a be-headed, disemboweled, de-legged and sometimes skinned chicken goes for about Sh1,000 to the middle class of Golden Gate Estate.

“This is not the end of the chicken” says Mutiso, “Somebody else will come for a piece of the entrails, the head, the skin or the toes for whatever money they have. By the end of the day, both the rich and poor will all have supped on a chicken.”

The ‘no-throw-away-anything’ meat culture in Nairobi, the study says, indicates a city that has fallen on some hard times.

Bosire’s study was published last month in the journal Science of the Total Environment collaborated with the World Agroforestry Centre (Nairobi), University of Hohenheim (Germany) and the National University of Singapore.

It shows the consumption of meat in Nairobi to have increased by a factor of 2.2 between 1980s and now. But this increase, Bosire says, is because of an unprecedented population growth in the city by about 150 per cent from 1.3 to 3.1 million between the 80’s and today.

“Contrary to expectation, average meat consumption per capita across all income groups in Nairobi declined by 11 per cent,” says the Bosire study.


She attributes this to a rising increase of meat prizes during the study period, especially for the middle and lower classes. Still the high income class of Nairobi consumes twice as much meat compared to their counterparts in Sudan and nearly four times higher than the average consumption in Ethiopia.

But compared to the rest of developed world, Nairobi’s top meat eaters are still babies at an average of 17kg per year. Australia, Brazil and the USA, for example, are estimated to consume 52kg per year, 40kg per year and 37kg per year, respectively.

Bosire warns that, the high consumption of meat and milk by Nairobi residents is a threat to the environment because livestock farming is a water intensive activity. Consequently Nairobi taste for meat may be drying up the country’s arid north from where the meat is imported.