• Low-income earners eat more fish than red meat.
• The decline in red meat consumption associated with fear of high incidences of lifestyle diseases.
An average Kenyan consumes 15 kg of meat annually, according to a Kenya Markets Trust study.
The study on Meat End-Market Trends in Kenya on Thursday also shows that most Kenyan families consume meat only once a week.
Nairobi residents are the highest consumers with each person eating about two extra kilos of meat compared to their counterparts in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kajiado, Eldoret, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Makueni, Kakamega and Garissa.
The countrywide study was conducted between July and November last year. It indicates that the country has a meat deficiency of 300,000 tonnes. The deficit is imported from neighbouring countries.
The study further indicates that per capita consumption of all types of meat is highest among the high- and middle-income populations compared to low-income segments.
The total volume of meat consumed is highest among the low-income earners due to their numbers.
"While 67 per cent of Kenyans preferred to eat red meat in a similar 2009 study, today, less than a quarter of the respondents preferred to eat red meat over white meat," the report reads.
Ironically, consumers in the low-income segment eat more fish as compared to red meat.
This is triggered by the ability to buy cheap portions and products such as Omena and fish remains which can be stretched to feed more people than the smallest units of red meat.
The report attributed the decline in red meat consumption to the association with the high incidences of lifestyle diseases.
The study further points out that meat buyers are keen on their health and often factor issues like drug residues, fear of lifestyle diseases, unhygienic handling of meat, meat from game animals, uninspected stolen animals and carcasses.
It also indicates that consumers prefer estate butcheries compared to shopping for meat in malls and supermarkets.
Butchers cited their preference for animals slaughtered from the Maasai ecosystem, ranches, northern Tanzania, Uganda and feedlots as these serve the needs of the middle-income segment and the nyama choma market.
Hospitals and academic institutions prefer lean animals which are largely sourced from all other pastoralists' markets in the country.
There is limited awareness among the majority of consumers especially in the middle- and low-income segments on differentiated products like aged meat, ranch meat, pure grass-fed meat and special meat cuts, hence consumers do not take these into consideration when purchasing meat.
Livestock PS Harry Kimtai said meat production in the country is mainly for domestic consumption, and the market is primarily urban and stratified according to disposal incomes.
"The meat industry is one of the fastest growing within the agriculture sector. It is driven by the growth of meat exporters and the increases in population, urbanisation and household income," Kimtai said.
Kenya's average beef production was estimated at 408,000 tons annually, of which 70 per cent was based on zebu cattle population from the arid and semi-arid areas.
The PS said the major constraints to the growth of the meat industry are the inadequate institutional framework, inadequate research based on the ecological potential for meat development, recurrent drought and poor marketing channels and animal diseases.
"There is a need for investment in finishing and fattening services that will ensure a consistent supply of quality livestock to the market. Meat retailers and processors will also need to invest to ensure adoption of food safety standards, value addition, product and differentiation and consumer awareness," he said.
(Edited by R.Wamochie)