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Ife Olayemi: Tackling the Real Problem Behind Meat Consumption in Nigeria

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dreamstime_l_35036653A few days ago, Itua Iyoha wrote a post about 3 Reasons Why Our Meat-Heavy Diet Is Slowly Killing Us and the effects of animal products to the human health i.e. metabolic acidosis. She advised to embrace plant-based diets, abstain or give up animal products including eggs and ice-creams (that one go cost o) while promising to further delve into vegan-friendly diets in future posts.

As a food enthusiast like my sister, I support and endorse this message. But it is, and maybe useless to our audience who make the choices and are not ready to give up meat due to what is a norm in the Nigerian culture.

As a Nigerian myself, I am a meat lover but in a controlled portion. Before I got to this stage of my life i.e. clean eating and getting educated on the gimmicks in the food and agricultural industries, I never really cared about the source of my foods. It was a presumed thing of the mind that all was well and safe for consumption. But, the thing is, it really isn’t. The fact that we go to the market or stores to get our meat and groceries does not mean that all products meet sanitary practices and inspection. It is a presumed notion. My interest in meat production behind the scenes gave light into the foolery that goes on with our foods.

Let us take a closer understanding of what I’m talking about in terms of sanitation and inspection. We know the meats brought in the streets and food markets come from somewhere, assumedly the North which is most likely raised by nomadic farmers or Fulani herdsmen, then transported to the Western part of the country for sales. The practices beyond this point should be questioned as some meat sellers do not conform to sanitary standards. I doubt there is a structure or guideline for these sellers.

Also, the standard used by the herdsmen should be further looked into; if just organic rearing of livestock or if shortcuts and inorganic/artificial practices are given to these animals for mass production. In my head, and yours, it is probably a no, but do not be surprised friends, on what you discover. You have been warned!

For chicken production, most of us have seen the popular Facebook post that showed what actually goes on in a poultry processing plant; where hormones were injected into chicken products ready for distribution to grocery stores. Upon injection, the packaged chickens doubled in size, hence looking like Thanksgiving turkey and “attractive” to the consumers’ eye. Hormonal effects due to this gimmick are known to disrupt the endocrine system in the human body, thereby causing infertility, thyroid diseases, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, obesity, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

For wild meats like bush rat, raccoon, antelope, deer, alligator, crocodile, snake or other uncommon meats captured by farmers, bought and sold in specific meat markets like Oluwo Meat Market in Epe outskirt of Lagos (thanks to Battabox for the documentary, check the video here), these meats are definitely questionable and in need of food inspection.

As a wild animal, one is never sure of the conditions these animals have been in, what they have consumed and if fit in the long run for human consumption. Lassa fever, the disease which broke out earlier this year was a result of such practices where bush rat meat consumption was detrimental to man and kept the country in a pandemic state, nationally.

Lastly, street foods are good and hard to resist. Our stable street foods such as suya and kilishi are common meat products from cows that have been filleted into long strips like beef jerkies but rubbed with robust and flavorful traditional spices. The latter is a sun-dried version of the former. Mallams are usually associated with the making of this delight due to the origin from the Northern part of Nigeria i.e. Hausaland. The problem is once again the process involved with the quality, source, and sanitation of these street foods. Only a few I guess are well-known famous suya joints in Lagos which have structure and (may) meet sanitary standards, e.g. University of Suya, Lekki Suya Spot etc. The majority of these Mallams are not licensed or certified to make such delicacies. Hygienically, there is nothing to say as well. I have seen with my own eyes, a suya guy blowing and digging through his nose in the middle of making a beef suya. What would you say in regards to that? I doubt if they even have basic hygienic practices for themselves, like water, soap, gloves, or even protective clothing… apron, safety glasses, chef skull cap or hat etc.

In summary, to tackle the high meat consumption in the African diet, the quality, quantity and source of meat have to be addressed. Nigerians need a healthy and lower protein intake since the current is high for a daily intake. Quality of consumed meat should be factored in, as good quality provides whole nutrients; B vitamins (B3, B6, B12), Zinc, Selenium, Phosphorous, Choline, Pantothenic acid, Protein, and Fatty acids (omega 3) needed for absorption. In addition, the source and safe practice of meat production is paramount to genuine quality and essential for human consumption. With this, I believe Nigerians are better informed and can then make better decisions on meat choices and consumption. As my father says, health is an individual thing that cannot be imposed on anyone. It is up to you to be of optimal health. I hope I have convinced, and not further confused you (*wink*).

I would advise you to follow your gut and stick to what works for you. Not everyone embraces veganism or vegetarianism. Do you! But make wise decisions with what you feed into your body i.e. your temple while still on earth.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Ife Olayemi, is a young public health professional and passionate health advocate. She is a foodie and loves to educate and inform people about their health and lifestyle choices. Her ultimate goal is to bridge health disparity gaps one at a time via this outlet. Follow me on @luvberrie on IG, e-mail: [email protected], and check out my website: www.AbsolutelyChi.com

40 Comments

  1. Teju

    May 24, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    The consumption of white meat are better,like chickens and turkey,eating of fish should be encouraged,they tend to digest easily than the beef that are known to rotten in the stomach.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:24 am

      Hi @Teju, yes, red meat tends to be harder to digest compared to white meat (chicken and turkey). Lean and light portion of red meat is okay while consumed in moderate portion. The same applies to white meat, and food in general. Thanks for your contribution.

    • Damilola

      May 25, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      The reality is, Nigerians don’t consume as much meat because it’s not cheap in the market. If you notice, times that we go full out on meat is during occasions/celebrations. We consume more of chicken, goat meat because it’s more accessible. If we are talking about the hygiene process of meat sellers and how it’s handled it’s a different story.

      Nigerian foods is very healthy. Our problem is the portion. We eat in big portions and too many rounds. We also let it linger around without working it out. Moderation is the key here

  2. Weezy

    May 24, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    The problem with this and the other post is that you keep touting an opinion like it is fact.

    Where is your evidence that Nigerians eat too much protein or that Africans eat too much meat? Please don’t cite your friends, family or people you know. The plural of anecdote is not data. Its more anecdotes.

    According to the FAO, per capita meat consumption is 8kg in Nigeria. In Mexico its 58. In South Africa its 39. In the UK its 86kg. Its 125kg in the US.

    Nigerians eat TOO LITTLE meat, in fact. And if the meat is unhygienic, maybe we should talk about improving meat processing instead of reducing it.

    What you are promoting right now is a faith-based initiative. If you want to get people to stop eating meat, you need a stronger argument.

    • le coco

      May 24, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      There we go.. sometimes we tend to assume nigeria is the extreme of every bad case.. but it’s nt true.. I have travelled the world and TRUST nigerians don’t eat meat as much as others..The amount of meat consumed in the UK.. southern africa etc is alarming

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:51 am

      @ le coco, thank you for your feedback. Please know that regardless if Nigerians eat lots of meat or not, educating everyone about their dietary lifestyle in regards to meat consumption is okay. Sharing is caring, right? Please find WHO’s report (iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf) on findings that evaluated the association of red meat and processed meat to cancer. Thanks for your contribution.

    • fixnigeriaseries

      May 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you o my sista/brother! Edakun, how is metabolic acidosis tied to meat processing – which you spent 60% of your article hammering on? Your premise and supporting argument are not aligned: if meat processing is the problem, the consequence will be increase in food poisoning or other diseases associated with oral-faecal transmission of infections. The pathology of cancer, and even acidosis, is waaay different and only indirect correlations can be made between the two. Please more fact, and less “old wives’ tales”, if you are trying to drive conversation towards better eating behaviours.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 5:02 am

      Hi @fixnigeriaseries, please re-read the article to make sure we are on the same page. I’m simply putting all options on the table towards tackling high-meat consumption, as previously brought up by Itua, and if truly a problem. Processed meat consumption is another topic to be discussed on another day. Please find the breakdown of this topic on my blog; absolutelychi.com/lets-talk-red-meat-and-cancer/, and WHO’s report on red meat, processed meat and carcinogenicity; iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf. Thanks for your feedback.

    • Queen Bee

      May 26, 2016 at 6:03 am

      Try to think before typing because this article is meant to educate Nigerians regardless of the present state. If you find this article bad, go and write yours and stop making a big deal here.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 5:14 am

      Hi @Weezy, thank you for your feedback. Please note that I’m not trying to get Nigerians to give up on meat. Rather, I’m addressing the previous post about high-meat consumption, if truly a problem. We do not need to give up our love before rectifying the problem. I’m a meat lover, and not ready to quit. Note that if Nigerians eat lots of meat or not, educating everyone about their dietary lifestyle in regards to meat consumption is okay. Sharing is caring, right? Please find WHO’s report (iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf) on findings that examined the association of red meat and processed meat to cancer. Thanks for your contribution.

    • Dee

      May 25, 2016 at 6:28 am

      Thanks for pointing that out! Nigerians eat way too little meat and there is protein energy malnutrition in abundance yet people would write pieces better suited to the US and UK where a whole turkey is consumed for dinner. I’ve not seen GMO chicken the size of Turkey here mbok. Stop feeding us false info. Talk about hygiene issues and stick to those

    • Lynn

      May 25, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      My dear, i was just thinking the same thing, that at what point did Nigeria start eating too much meat??? What i know is that everything including food should be in moderation and not totally annihilation of one particular group of food to be stay healthy. Each and every group of food is necessary. However, if you want to be a vegan, pls carry go, but dont try to use baseless facts to convince others to follow your life style of deprevation of basic nutricious foods.

  3. Ms. Lurve

    May 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Me: **Serves hubby rice and chicken curry** (YouTube video tabs still open)
    Hubby: “Where is the meat?”
    Me: “Its in the curry”
    Hubby: “But where is the MEAT” **Holds a fist out to gesture the shape and size expected**
    Me: I’ll microwave a drum stick for you
    Hubby: Please make it two hun
    Me: **Huge sigh!**

    • Bade

      May 24, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Nigerian mentality at its peak.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:18 am

      Hi @Ms. Lurve, hahaha, try making the curry sauce with whole chicken drumsticks (skinless; optional) for your hubby, and thanks for your contribution.

  4. Zeeebby

    May 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I READ THIS WHILE EATING AMALA AND OGUFE FROM SOMEWHERE IN THE MARKET..

    • Ogao

      May 24, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Hahahahahahaahah. I wish I could like that 7 more times!

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:32 am

      @Zeeebby, minus the stated concern for ethical standards and food safety, I hope you enjoyed your sumptuous meal! Save me a plate next time, and thanks for your contribution.

  5. Catherine

    May 24, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    @Ms.Lurve, you could make the curry with chicken drumsticks (remove the skin)

  6. Balo

    May 24, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    what african man doesn’t like meat??? Forget story….. This is is bad, that one is bad, how many things person one keep away from. After all, sooner than later sef person go die, so why not chop life to the fullest. Man, YOLO

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:13 am

      Hi @Balo, everything is bad in excessive amounts. Please, enjoy ALL you love eating, but in moderation. Just make better-informed decisions on your lifestyle and nutritional choices. Thanks for your contribution.

  7. Tutu

    May 24, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I really appreciate your efforts in educating us about healthy eating especially as regards meat and animal protein. This is going to be a slow and painful war but I’m sure in the end some of us will get it. I’m currently having Ponmo now. I now know that all these stuff I’m eating are bad but I can’t help myself. They taste too damn good!

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:08 am

      @Tutu, carbs is life, likewise meat which is delicious! Don’t sweat about anything, just make it more of a lifestyle and you can enjoy ALL the foods you love in a controlled setting. Goodluck dear!!

  8. Itua

    May 24, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Great article, Ife. NAFDAC really has a lot of work to do in Nigeria!

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 12:24 am

      Thanks @Itua!!! They sure do, and I cannot wait until the day proper structure and transparency is implemented in such sectors.

  9. Tabitha

    May 24, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Also, not forgetting that processed meat (such as hotdogs, ham, bacon, sausages e.t.c) and red meat (such as beef, lamb, goat meat and pork) are risk factors for several cancers including colorectal cancer and breast cancer which are on the increase in Nigeria –
    Colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in Nigerian men (after prostate and liver cancer ) and the fourth most common cancer in Nigerian women ( after breast, cervical and liver cancer )

    In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer ( IARC ) classified processed meat as a carcinogen.
    A carcinogen is something that causes cancer. It also classified red meat as a probable carcinogen.
    The IARC is the cancer agency of the World Health Organisation.

    Let us cut down on the meat consumption.

    For those who enjoy red meat, choose smaller, leaner portions and keep some days of the week meat free. You can also substitute with fish and poultry. Processed meat is a no no.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 4:04 am

      @Tabitha, thank you for the evidence in regards to this controversial topic. Here’s the link to the IARC report you referred to; iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf. The report, when released by WHO in October 2015, made the world go bonkers because of the explored carcinogenicity between consumption of red meat and processed meat, I wrote an article which simplified the report in a common man’s language. Consumption is not bad per say, but the kind of meat eaten and individual lifestyle is of concern. You mentioned very good points which were accentuated in my article. Do find the link here; absolutelychi.com/lets-talk-red-meat-and-cancer/, and thanks for your contribution.

  10. whocares

    May 24, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    “follow your gut”. looool. literally!
    I read an article the other day how meat was a necessary part for evolution.. I can’t remember where I read that, but it was “propa scientic and ting”. The same people that tell you meat is killing us, also tell us its good for us. Moderation is key.
    As for me and my family? “ibi taje chicken de, awon adie n sa fun wa o (obesere anyone?- we ate chicken so much chickens were running away from us)
    ps: is this restricted to red meat or “meat” as we call anything that isn’t plant, tofu or mushroom?

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 3:34 am

      Hi @whocares! Moderation is restricted to everything from meat…white and red to rice, garri, bread etc. Due to the high-fat levels of red meat, and the ‘tough’ process of digestion, scientists/nutritionists suggest leaner portions of red meat which make digestion easier. White meat i.e. chicken and turkey have less saturated fats than red meat, fish has good unsaturated fats and they all contain cholesterol, hence the need for moderation. Thank for your contribution.

  11. ME

    May 24, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Abeg oooo, we already have enough religions in Nigeria. Let’s not add veganism to the list. Yes veganism because these days it’s more about placing animals on a pedestal than about eating plant-based meals. Na so e dey start: don’t eat chicken; don’t wear leather. What we should encourage is more ethical methods of raising and feeding the animals. And nawa for all these our experts. Carb is bad. Protein from meat is bad. Very soon we will be instructed to eat stones. As for me, I loves me some meat.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 2:16 am

      Hi @ME!! I’d like to point out that I’m on the fence here; just bringing the information from research and experience to you. I do eat meat…a big meat lover, and I am not willing to quit at all. Publications that reflect on eating this food or that as bad are 9 times out of 10 talking of the ethical standards and conditions to which such food is grown. Regardless of what is said, always think like this: whatever is of nature, and grown right is good for you. Le fin! I recall when palm oil, coconut oil and even egusi and ogbono seeds were suddenly tagged as bad for our health. I ignored such because they are local and derived from nature. Of course, moderation is key and was considered during meal consumption. The problem is that many see such articles but fail to read it completely and reason with the author. I hope this helps! Thanks for your contribution.

  12. Anonymous

    May 24, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Many Nigerians are hell-bent on the fact that because they have been doing something and it didnt kill them, telling them to do otherwise is not only insultive but evil from the pits of Hell of the Western world eg eating meat, not using relaxer, feminism etc Just don’t expect a great response from here my dear. I’d say we have a long way to go, but it seems like the people don’t see why they should move anywhere. Unfortunate

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 12:33 am

      hahahaha, thank you for your comment @Anonymus. Change is hard to embrace especially when uncommon and foreign to our traditional roots. As I usually say, the days of our parents and grandparents have changed drastically. The same applies to the environment and its inhabitants. Moderation and proper information/education is the ultimate key here.

  13. el patron

    May 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    hmmmmm osu mi! na to dey de pakute and ta orfar for aparo remain now.
    eiye aparo the solution tabi odidere.

  14. Mabel

    May 24, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    I was once on a diet where heavy meat consumption was required, I didn’t last three weeks on it. I did lose weight, but so much meat eating was a nightmare. Balance and moderation are key to everything in life.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 12:28 am

      Oh mine, so sorry to hear that. What is the name of the diet plan you were on? I’m glad you followed your gut and realized that moderation is key when it comes to nutrition. Thanks for reading, and contributing to this piece:)

  15. Ife Olayemi

    May 25, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Thanks guys for the feedback and comments. As a community, we all learn from one another and glad I did, likewise.

  16. Private enterprise

    May 25, 2016 at 1:32 am

    It is a verifiable fact which you can look up in WHO and FAO documents that African countries and other underdeveloped countries consume far less meat (protein) than their developed counterparts. Even when they consume protein it is often in plant form (beans). So these article’s claims are unfounded.

    • Ife Olayemi

      May 25, 2016 at 5:31 am

      @Private enterprise, please provide your source. All I’m doing is educating everyone in general about meat consumption, be it consumed in higher or lower amounts than developed countries. This article is a response to the original post about high-meat consumption. No, we don’t have to cut off meat eating, but surely have to moderate our portion, eat leaner meats, and pay attention to the quality as well as the source of our meat, if truly a problem. I hope this helps and thank you for your feedback!

  17. Queen Bee

    May 26, 2016 at 6:19 am

    “”Statistics show that Nigeria’s per-capita meat consumption is approximately 6.4 kilogrammes a year, China’s is about
    23 kilogrammes, but, Canadians consume an average of 65 kilogrammes a year and the citizens of the US eat 95
    kilogrammes. This shows the meat-centricity of Western society. But Nigeria is not only one of the largest meat
    producing countries in Africa but also one of the largest meat consumers in this region of the world, according to a
    study titled ‘Consumerism: Statistical Estimation of Nigeria Meat Demand’ by Osho Gbolahan Solomon and Asghar
    Nazemzadeh, University of Houston-Downtown.
    Nigeria therefore has the benefit of hindsight and must therefore not be a victim of meat-related dangers highlighted
    here. Ministries of health across the country have a responsibility to educate Nigerians on required dietary eating
    habits.””

    You all with negative comments should think twice before saying that one is forcing you to be vegan or not to have meat at all. This article is to help you learn not to make you. If you think 6.4kg of yearly meat is nothing, good luck with your old age and enjoy your days of regret.

    This article was an excellent piece of work. Thank you, Ife.

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