The African Meat Factory

The African Meat Factory
22 September 2023
Eben van Tonder

Introduction

All indications are that many millionaires in West Africa will come from the meat trade over the next few decades. As capitalists and entrepreneurs look at the opportunities, I consider the best way forward for meat supply in West Africa. This is part of my section, “The Meat Factory.” I have worked in the meat trade almost my entire life and have devoted countless hours to studying its salient disciplines. I realised that West Africa is unique in the existence of:

  • A well-structured supply chain of cattle, including its breeding in the north and transport to the South
  • Slaughtering and distribution
  • A comprehensive food safety system that has secured the safety of meat over millennia

In light of this, entrepreneurs should position themselves carefully. Do they want to re-invent the effective system that exists? Numerous industries do not exist in Nigeria allied to the developing meat trade. The most significant opportunities exist in setting these up and feeding into the massive sausage and other meat plants that will spring up over the next few years. Do they want to copy what is being done in Europe with utterly different technology sets and supply chains, or do they want to do what will produce unfathomably more revenue? I argue the case in these two videos I posted on YouTube.

  1. Be proud of what Africa has delivered.
  2. Don’t be fooled by the Western, Russian and Far Eastern systems by thinking that copying them in every way is a good solution.
  3. Think!

Western approach to meat in certain parts of Africa doesn’t work!

West African systems seem alien to modern food scientists and meat plant operators. The question is whether this system should be scrapped in favour of Western-style systems.

I address this subject in the following video, where I deal with

  • Animal breeds
  • Feedlots
  • The development of the Sausage Market
  • The HUGE opportunity to process meat extenders locally and transform the face of the meat trade

The Youtube link is: https://youtu.be/ykPHiJXjscw

The Blueprint

In terms of a blueprint outlining the options, it’s very simple. If you want to feed the population, the meat supply networks from the north exist. You will never do it cheaper! Slab-slaughter at a local abattoir. Design a food safety system to eradicate micro and other contaminants upstream and rest the carcass before chilling for meat quality. Then chill and debone. Invest in deboning and processing plants.

Suppose you want to supply catering and restaurants, there are options. You can contract-slaughter at a mechanised abattoir or erect one yourself. Own the deboning and processing plants. Alternatively, there is a far better option in the form of novel technology developed by Oake, Woods and Co. (Pty) Ltd to tenderise meat from migrant animals that have been slab-slaughteres to an unbelievable level and change the meat into the same quality as feedlot animals. This is another example of unique African technology.

If you plan to erect feedlots, my first thoughts are: Then find a quiet spot to sit and keep sitting till the desire for a feedlot disappears! Whichever you choose from the above, invest in the processing of grains for meat functionals. However, I know many successful feedlot operations but sell the cattle at the highest prices possible. It will not replace migrating animals in our lifetime.

Select a team of professionals. A meat plant is best compared to a hospital. One surgeon does not make an intensive care unit or even a primary clinic! The meat business is big business. Getting it right from the word go is critical! One man or one team must drive it, and the broader support team can be through functional blend suppliers and other parties with a direct interest in the operation. They certainly don’t all need to be on the company’s payroll, but that commitment to the right network of support professionals must be there. Technology, equipment, and ingredients suppliers should be chosen with the greatest care.

A Plea for Common Sense

I tell the story of my own journey from repulsion to intrigue and then amazement as I started to understand the Nigerian food safety system.

I mention modified starches and TVP as accessible technology to access and implement locally. My basic plea is to follow strategies for profit and not to impress. There is a myriad of opportunities in Nigeria! The picture of what is possible is far greater than most people can even fathom. I ask if entrepreneurs want to spend their time re-inventing the entire massive meat supply process. Instead, focus on the many low-hanging fruits and spend resources on that!

I plead with African leaders not to turn their back on what their ancestors developed over millennia through a working and effective food system. I make a case to support new technology that makes incorporating grains and other crops into meat formulations possible locally instead of importing these from other countries.

The Youtube link is: https://youtu.be/Cbze4Fddjh4

Example of New Thinking

I use an example in the videos. I got the total chemicals usage of a meat factory in Cape Town with a similar footprint and staff as we’ve set up in Lagos. Using ECA technology and mainly salt to generate a powerful disinfectant and soap, the total cost of the hardware (taking over five years repayment) with all spare parts, wear and tear, and maintenance weekly taken into account, the complete chemicals bill is projected at €3,500 vs the current €7000 paid by the company in Cape Town.

In terms of effectiveness, the Lagos plant will be better cleaned than the Cape Town plant based on the characteristics of the products. In Lagos, it includes carcass washing with disinfectant to ensure a safe factory environment. So, we accept the environment of slaughtering; we use the meat supply network and the superior West African supply chain, but we advance food safety by a hurdle when meat is received. We achieve the best of both worlds. Africa, East, West and Far East meet in Lagos!

Besides these, developing modified starches and TVPs for local production in Nigeria is at an advanced stage.

Conclusion

The opportunities in Africa are far more than we can fathom. I take great pride in presenting this for evaluation. The choice is obvious.


This is part of my broader work on the meat factory. Find the complete set of works on this subject at the link below.


This page is part of a series on The Meat Factory. Visit this page for the full list of related discussion documents.