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Adefolake Adekola: The Impact of Handling of Meat & its Waste on the Human Health & Environment

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If you are not vegetarian or vegan, then you must enjoy a lovely piece of beef steak or suya roasting on the barbecue grill. Every meat lover wants a fat juicy chunk of beef that can truly satisfy their quest for a balanced meal, but do we take time to ask ourselves important questions like: Where is this beef from? How was it prepared? What water was used to cook it?

The consumption of meat in Nigeria is very high. We eat meat at every gathering, from weddings, to birthday parties, church functions, etc. Thousands of cattle are slaughtered in abattoirs/slaughterhouses across the country daily in order to meet the demand. Along with the high demand comes a high amount of waste produced from the processing of meat. This makes waste disposal an issue and increases health concern associated with meat consumption.

Abattoirs and other alternative places used to slaughter cattle should ideally be well maintained for the singular reason that people from all over buy their meat from these places, but the reverse is the case. Studies conducted by Chukwu et al, 2011, revealed that when a cattle is slaughtered the waste is usually not cleared and several others are slaughtered on the waste. Asides the mishandling of these animals, some cattle rearers are in the habit of injecting the animals with antibiotics that boost their immune system, but they administer these drugs in the wrong doses.

The main risk associated with meat production waste is the potential for contaminants and pathogen to transport from animals to humans directly. Example of this pathogen/contaminant are prions, also known as TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies). It is important that most production waste containing prions are disposed appropriately. When meat is slaughtered in homes, meat waste is left on the bare ground and covered with soil, or poured into a gutter and sometimes burnt.

It is cheaper to bury the waste, but it poses the risk of transmitting diseases and does not destroy prions/pathogen. Burying the waste can also affect the table or surface water in the area.

As for incineration, it destroys most pathogens and reduces the volume of waste, but can cause air pollution and other health effects such as difficulty in breathing. The water from meat production is five to ten times as strong as domestic sewage and contains high phosphorus, nitrogen and grease concentration. Nitrogen pollution in waterways can also kill aquatic life and make it much more difficult for fish, insects and other creatures dependent on the water.

Individuals living close to abattoirs stand a greater chance of contracting certain illnesses, having both health and environmental related issues. Examples of environmental issues associated with poor sanitary conditions in abattoirs or poor disposal of waste are:

  1. Pollution of air, soil, surface water and ground water.
  2. Polluted effluent discharge.
  3. Land degradation.
  4. Destroy environmental quality.

Health concerns

  1. Water and air borne diseases.
  2. Nausea and vomiting.
  3. Breathlessness.
  4. Skin problems.
  5. Infectious diseases.

What to do?

Commercial meat production

  1. Abattoirs need to be cleaned daily.
  2. Better infrastructure and operations in the slaughterhouses.
  3. Educating the butchers on the importance of hygienic practices.
  4. Proper waste disposal system for these places.
  5. Proper effluent treatment facility.

Domestic meat production/consumption

  1. Find a sanitary meat vendor to buy from.
  2. Do not bury or pour waste from meat into the gutter.
  3. Be mindful of the slaughterhouses you purchase your meat from for an event, or even for domestic consumption. Ensure their practices are safe and hygienic.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Adefolake Ayotunde-Salami is a Social Safeguard Consultant on World Bank Assisted Projects. She has a B.Sc, M.Sc and hold numerous certifications. She is also an Independent Consultant for top companies in Nigeria and has work experience in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. She is the author of a book on Amazon and Smashwords titled “Functioning In The Knowledge Of Who You Are” and a website ( where she writes articles based on extensive research. She is a Columnist for Bellanaija, Nigeria's biggest blog.  

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