Kenyans eating less meat than at independence

Kenyans eating less meat than at independence

Meat slowly disappearing from our plates

Ever wondered whether we're the biggest meat eaters in Africa? Considered if we are eating less or more meat? Chewed over what type of meat Kenyans prefer?

As we enter peak meat eating season in Kenya, Nation Newsplex brings you the meaty numbers.

A live 14kg goat that sold for Sh4,500 in April was going for Sh7,000 by  December 20 and was likely to increase further before the peak season ends.

Meat is slowly disappearing from our plates with Kenyans eating less meat today than they did at independence, a look at food data dating back to independence reveals. 

In 1963, Kenyans ate about 16kilograms of meat per person a year, equivalent 78 kilocalories per person a day but consumption had dropped to about 14kg per person a year or 50 kilocalories per person a day by 2013, reveals a Newsplex review of statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nation.

This means that the average Kenyan eats two kg of meat less a year than they did at independence.

The US Food and Drug Administration recommends that adults consume 50g of protein a day. About 85g of meat contains 21g of protein. To meet the guideline Kenya would have to increase average meat consumption by more than four times. But

another way to make up for the deficit is to find major alternative plant-based sources of protein.

Still, Kenyans eat the most meat in East Africa. The average Kenyan eats almost three times as much meat as the average Rwandese, according to the most recent data available.   In 2011, the year data is available for most countries, the average Rwandese consumed 6kg of meat per year compared to the average Kenyan who ate 16kg.

Uganda’s average meat consumption was 13kg, Tanzania’s 10kg and Nigeria’s 9kg.  The average South African ate four times as much meat a year than the average Kenyan while a Ghanian consumed 1kg extra.

Beef is Kenya's preferred meat, making up two-thirds of all consumed meat even as the demand of other meats is picking up. It is followed mutton and goat meat at 13 per cent, Poultry (three per cent) and pig (two per cent). Other meats account for 15 per cent of all consumed meat.

Pork eaten per person in Kenya has almost doubled in the last five decades. In contrast demand for poultry, mutton and goat per person decreased by half and beef by two per cent.

“If you don’t make your profit during the holiday season that begins in December and ends around January 3 then you are in trouble,” says Mr Daniel Ngiroiyia, a goat seller in Kiserian.

He says that by the first week of December this year both the price of goat and quantity sold by traders in Kiserian and Kisamis areas in Kajiado, where many Nairobians get their meat supply, had more than doubled.  A live 14kg goat that sold for Sh4,500 in April was going for Sh7,000 by  December 20 and was likely to increase further before the peak season ends.

“In the first quarter of the year business is at a standstill. It picks up in April, when I usually sell about 60 goats a week. In December I sell 150 goats over the same period,” says Ngiroiyia. Other goat traders in Kisearian are experiencing a similar pick up in business. For instance, market days in Kiserian are on Monday and Thursday but during the holiday season every day is a market day. “This is the time that farmers who are looking for school fees bring their animals to the market,” he says.

“On average about 800 goats are sold in Kiserian on a given market day but during this season it spikes to about 2,000.”

Ngiroiya adds that since the goats sold in Kiserian are bought directly from farmers the prices are lower than when people move further away from Nairobi to eat outs like Olepolos.

But for the butcheries within Estates there is hardly any change. “So far business is lower than even last month,” says Mr Kenneth Okumu, who owns a butchery and an eatery in the middle class Imara Daima Estate in Nairobi.

Both Okumu and Ngiroiya explain that this is because families who usually buy about 1kg of meat opt to buy live goats, chicken or other animals from the markets rather than butcheries.

The demand for meat during the December holiday is also evident in the difference in average prices in January and December of each year.

For instance, figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show that the price of beef (with bones) at butcheries retailed for Sh398 in December 2015 up from Sh388 in January that year, an increase of three per cent.

The previous year the price difference was greater when beef (with bones) retailed for Sh387 up from Sh356 eleven months earlier, a jump of nine per cent.  At the end of 2013, butcheries sold beef (with bones) for Sh354 up from Sh331 in January, an increase of seven per cent.


Although meat consumption in Kenya are still low, they are expected to rise rapidly with increasing Gross Domestic Product and a growing middle class.

A 2003 study by the Tegemeo Institute from Egerton University in collaboration with the Central Bureau of Statistics (the forerunner to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics), found that meat consumption varied by income, with super-rich Kenyans consuming nearly three times more beef than the poorest.


Livestock sold to abattoirs in Kenya increased by 12 per cent from 8.2 million in 2011 to 9.11 million in 2015, a 12 per cent, according to the latest Economic Survey.

The biggest increase was in the slaughter of pigs which increased by 27 per cent from 234,000 to 283,000 over the same period. The slaughter of sheep and goats grew by 13 per cent from 5.8 million in 2011 to 6.6 million in 2015. In the five years, 12 per cent more cattle and were slaughtered. 

It is estimated that livestock contributes 12 per cent of Kenya’s GDP and that 10 million Kenyans living in the arid and semi-arid lands derive their livelihood largely from livestock.

With some noteworthy exceptions, the FAO data shows that on average wealthier countries consume more meat. The average meat consumption in Africa in 2011 was 19 kg per person per year, the least. Kenya’s consumption is below the continent’s average.

Following Africa from the rear was Asia where the average meat consumption was almost double that of Africa (31kg). In the Americas consumption was five times as much (86kg) as in Africa while in Europe it was four times as much (76kg).

China-Hong Kong (154 kg), New Zealand (127Kg), Burmuda (123kg), Australia (121kg) and the United States (118kg) were the most carnivorous countries. FAO publishes food data for almost every country in the world.


Meat has greater impact on the environment than much of the food we eat because livestock require much more land, food, water, land and fuel than plants to raise and transport. This has led to growing calls for less global consumption of meat, especially in the developed world where average consumption is more than recommended levels.

A 2010 United Nations Environment Programme report called for a shift to a vegetable based diet to save the world from climate change, hunger and fuel poverty.

The study warned that western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable given that agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 19 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 70 per cent  of global freshwater consumption.

An Oxford University study released in November this year found that climate taxes on meat and milk would lead to huge and vital cuts in carbon emissions and save a half a million lives a year through healthier diets.

It recommended surcharges of 40 per cent on beef and 20 per cent on milk to account for the damage their production causes people via climate change.

These taxes would then deter people from consuming as much of these foods and encourage them to opt for healthier diets while reducing carbon emissions, according to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.