Skip to main content

Meat Production and Consumption in Africa

The top five African countries producing meat from farmed species are South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, and Sudan. Together, they contribute about 50% of the continent’s total meat production in terms of volume.
The farmed species include chickens (1.9 billion), goats (374 million), sheep (350 million), cattle (320 million), pigs (35 million), dromedaries (23 million), and equids (donkeys, horses, and mules 2.6 million). Additionally, there are also wild species, fish, and insects.
For years, Africa has seen an increase in the demand for animal products, primarily due to urbanization, which has a considerable impact on food consumption patterns in general and specifically on the demand for meat. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, it is estimated that by 2050, beef and poultry consumption will increase tenfold compared to today, reaching 13.5 million and 11.8 million tons, respectively.
Regarding commercialization, African countries export a significant number of live animals but still cannot meet the domestic demand for animal products. There are still various sanitary, technical, structural, and infrastructural constraints: the lack of adequate slaughterhouses and refrigeration facilities forces farmers and processors to use traditional preservation methods such as salting and sun-drying, which do not guarantee adequate hygienic and nutritional quality of the products.
While cattle are the primary source of meat for the African population, small ruminants are very important in the arid and semi-arid areas of the Sahel and East Africa, where flocks are raised by small landowners to diversify income in case of poor crop yields.
Although many cattle, sheep, and goat breeds raised in Africa are indigenous and locally originated, their products are rarely valued.
The lower number of pig farming is mainly due to religious constraints. Pork represents a small share of total meat consumption in Africa, and in some countries (Kenya, Tanzania), the market depends heavily on tourism.
Among avian species, chicken predominates, although turkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons, and guinea fowls are widespread in some areas. The seven largest chicken meat producers are South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia; with over 3.6 million tons, these countries produce almost 80% of the total. Poultry is widely raised on a family scale throughout the continent and significantly contributes to generating family income; the farming is extensive or semi-extensive on a small scale, generally carried out by women and children.
According to FAO, over 90 local chicken breeds are raised in Africa. Among the most well-known local breeds are Kenya’s Molo Mushunu and Egypt’s Bigawi, while South Africa’s Boschveld is a crossbreed of the indigenous Venda, Matabele, and Ovambo breeds.
The commercialization of chickens in cities is generally informal and usually occurs in public markets, where animals are slaughtered on request, often under poor hygienic conditions. In rural areas, chickens are generally sold live; this method simplifies the sales and consumption chain as it does not require immediate processing and/or refrigeration, and the animals are slaughtered as needed and according to the consumer’s religious orientation (e.g., according to the “halal” rite).
In Africa, much meat is preserved after a process of salting and sun-drying. One of the most famous dried meat products in the Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) is Gueddid, prepared with lamb or veal; in the more arid areas, camel and goat meat are also used. Gueddid is now considered a prestigious product and has become part of North Africa’s cultural heritage. Also from Morocco is Khlii, or Khlia; originally made with camel meat, it is now predominantly produced with beef.
Kilishi from Cameroon is traditionally prepared with beef. In Nigeria, dried meat is known as “Tinko,” “Kilishi,” and “Kundi”; it is common in the northern part of the country, while in other areas, dried products made from donkey, horse, camel, buffalo, or game meat are known as “Ndariko,” “Jiorge,” and “Banda.”
Biltong is perhaps the most well-known dried meat product in Africa; it is widely consumed in South Africa, but similar products are found in other countries, from Botswana to Nigeria. Fillets or strips of beef, ostrich, and game are used to produce it.
The most famous fresh meat products are “Merguez,” “Mkila,” “Tehal,” and some types of “Sujuk.” Merguez is a raw sausage typical of the Maghreb, about 2 cm in diameter, currently produced on a semi-industrial scale; in some countries, Tunisia and Algeria, it is commonly added as an ingredient in couscous.
Tehal (or tehane) is a mixture of ground beef seasoned with various spices and spleen; the mixture is oven-baked.
Bubanita (boubanita) is a typical Moroccan specialty prepared with lamb meat cut into small cubic pieces, seasoned and wrapped in lamb rumen, which is then tied with a string and hung to dry and ferment slowly.
Semi-fresh meat products include “Pastirma” and some types of “Naqaneq.” Pastirma (or Basterma, Basturma, Pastrami), very popular in Egypt, is made of strips of seasoned beef or lamb (sometimes also goat, buffalo, or camel) aged with a mixture of garlic, fenugreek, and various spices.
Naqaneq is a generic Arabic term used to designate any type of sausage, raw or cooked, made from ground beef, lamb, buffalo, or poultry and stuffed into a natural casing previously soaked in boiling water. The composition, taste, and flavor of these sausages are highly variable depending on the origin, aging, mixture, and conditions of maturation and drying.
Animal products, especially meat, play a very important role in the African diet; their role in traditional religious ceremonies and many special occasions should not be overlooked. The importance is evidenced by the wide variety of products and numerous preparations developed based on local traditions and available resources. Unfortunately, despite the great variety of local breeds and products, the link between territory, breed, and product is rarely adequately recognized and valued.
In Africa, examples of large-scale supply chains are relatively few, and the possibilities for exporting local animal products are still limited. Additionally, the small farm size and predominantly family-run nature of most farms do not always guarantee hygienic and safe procedures and products.
Possible strategies for developing African animal production include recognizing products linked to local breeds or specific production processes that achieve higher commercial value in the market and can therefore be exported, ensuring this does not lead to further nutritional impoverishment of the local population. Other potential improvements to the production system can come from cooperation projects aimed at training local personnel on the hygienic and sanitary aspects of the entire meat supply chain.