Focus on value addition in livestock sector for quality

Friday May 26 2023

There’s value in hiring a professional butcher. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

By Evans Ongwae

East Africa’s livestock sector represents a major paradox.

The region is home to an estimated 180 million cattle but remains a net importer of quality beef from the southern African market (such as South Africa and Namibia) and South American countries (such as Brazil and Argentina).

The region’s pastoralists and smallholders, who number millions, depend on livestock as their main source of income. The sector, therefore, has an important role to play in delivering an inclusive and prosperous future for millions of vulnerable people in the region.

The sector’s contribution to the region’s economies, and specifically, to the individual players, can increase if more investments are made.  

Livestock owners, processors, and the government should invest more in the sector, be it in the form of policies, infrastructure, or capital.

Livestock producers have struggled to effectively engage in commercial value chains, with their participation being marred by their limited access to inputs and exposure to climate-related risks.


However, there is an increasing demand for meat in urban centres, and a growing middle-income is increasingly concerned about food safety and interested in higher-value products.

However, as Mirriam Mulei of Gatsby Africa notes, the majority of those who cut meat in butcheries are not trained professionals.

She points out that professional butchers are trained in identifying specific cuts of meat according to customer preference and know how to extract greater use and value from the carcass.

Despite this value-add opportunity, Kenya has no institute that trains professional butchers, she says, adding that “most of them learn on the job.”

Professional butchers are paid higher salaries than their non-professional ones, and therefore, “retaining them is a nightmare for owners of butcheries as they are poached across the industry.”

According to Ms Mulei, there’s value in hiring a professional butcher. “You get more value as a butcher and as a consumer,” she says.

Gatsby Africa, which she works for, is a private foundation with a long history of engaging in East Africa across government, business, and society. It is committed to helping build stronger and more inclusive economies in East Africa through the transformation of sectors that have the potential for inclusive, resilient, and competitive growth over the long-term.

Gatsby’s livestock programme is focused on supporting the region in developing a modern and competitive meat sector, whilst also innovating models that maximise the extent to which livestock producers participate in and benefit from higher returns from the sector.

The programme has four key ambitions:

• To improve access and uptake of professional inputs and services among pastoralists;

• To explore the use of inclusive livestock production and aggregation models to improve the quality and quantity of livestock;

• To attract large-scale private investment in meat processing capacity and cold chain to increase product value and open up more efficient routes to market;

• To support the development, review and implementation of various livestock policies that will enable sector transformation in a way that is competitive, inclusive and resilient.

To learn more about Gatsby’s work within the region’s livestock sector, as well as the opportunities the sector transformation presents,