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