As more Nigerians are getting conscious of their health, security and safety during this scary time, farmers, as well as stakeholders in the agricultural sector and marketing experts, are shifting to online sales.
This appears to be the right option, as more people are working remotely and choosing to stay indoors, as it is becoming mandatory to survive in this trying period.
One of the sub-sectors that now enjoy innovations is the meat value chain. Ground checks revealed that a good number of online meat markets have sprung up in the last three months. Investigations showed that the meat dealers do not only enjoy patronage but also expand their reach as more people key into the initiative.
But as good and laudable the initiative is, one area that is of major concern to meat lovers and health experts are hygiene and wholesomeness of the beef, as buyers only receive the processed meat, but lack access to verify the state of the animal and processing facilities, handling and transportation.
According to health experts and veterinary doctors, the concerns become imperative following mounting cases of zoonotic diseases that are linked to the consumption of unwholesome meats.
The Guardian learnt from experts that apart from tuberculosis and other common diseases transmitted to humans from animals, cases of typhoid fever, malaria parasite and chronic fever have been attributed to consumption of unwholesome and unsafe meat.
From investigations, the problem appears to be in two phases: poor approach of supervising agencies and ramshackle state of slaughter facilities.
As good as the meat business is, it is plagued with value chain challenges, from cattle merchants through the slaughters, to the consumers. And with the ever-increasing number of the meat-selling social media platforms, serious concerns are mounting on the safety of the meat.
Since most of the sellers operate on private slaughters, the common concern revolves around how hygienic are the abattoirs/slaughters? Is antemortem examination always carried out on the animals by certified health experts before slaughtering? Is post-mortem examination always performed after slaughtering? Who ascertains the meat wholesomeness? Were the slaughters licensed?
While the antemortem examination is to ensure that the animal is rested and observed for possible physical and health-related anomalies that could render them unfit for slaughter, a post-mortem is conducted after slaughtering the animal. Here, various internal and external organs are closely observed for any sign of bacteria or viral loads beyond acceptable levels, especially for diseases of zoonotic importance.
One of the meat vendors, Menitos Farm Depot, told The Guardian that the law in Lagos State requires all vendors to use licensed abattoirs for processing.
According to Toluwalope Daramola, founder of the firm, most of the meat sellers avoid the licensed abattoirs because it’s cheaper to get the local butchers to do it the crude way.
“I can only speak for myself here as I process at the state’s abattoir, licensed to handle livestock processing. So, meat quality is guaranteed. A hotel had tested our meat without telling us and we only found out because we passed their tests. The Lagos State Abattoir has multiple licensed butcheries within its premises that sellers like myself patronise. In fact, the facilities are under-utilised in my opinion.
“I have never seen it done outside the private butcheries, but the private butcheries ensure due process. You can’t just bring any animal there to process. But in the general area, I have witnessed ruminants that were barely breathing, which were processed without any checks. The few times they were caught, the inspectors got rid of the carcass by pouring bleach or kerosene on it to ensure they can’t sell it off,” she said.
Founder of Alitconmeat, Abiola Mutairu Oladimeji, based in Okota, told The Guardian that he operates from a privatised slaughter inside the Agege Abattoir, licensed by Lagos State government.
“We often source for healthy animals, especially the grass-fed because of their health benefits. We processed in a hygiene environment. During the slaughtering, we make sure that the blood is totally drained before any cut or process on the animal.
“A lot of veterinary doctors are on ground to check if the animals are healthy enough for consumption. We always conduct the anti-mortem and post-mortem examinations on the animals. We take full charge of all the animals we slaughter ourselves and we always go for the best,” he said.
The Chairman, Lagos State chapter, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Dr. Olufemi Aroso, said only animals slaughtered at the government approved abattoirs and certificate of wholesomeness issued, duly signed by an official veterinary officer are safe for consumption.
“The approved abattoirs are registered and licensed for operation yearly by the Veterinary Service Department of Ministry of Agriculture, so the meats processed from the slaughter facilities are safe for consumption. For the safety of consumers, the Ministry of Agriculture is supposed to monitor activities of these meat vendors.”
Aroso said in the government-licensed slaughters, post-mortem inspections are carried out at all times by veterinary doctors. He added that some of them operate from private slaughters, registered by the government with approved certificates from the veterinary department of the ministry of agriculture.
The state ministry of agriculture disclosed that the state has 12 approved and registered public abattoirs and six private ones.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Jide Lawal, disclosed that the ministry and the veterinary department do monitor the activities of the registered abattoirs; hence any of the meat vendors using the accredited ones are credible.
He added that both anti-and post-mortem examinations are carried out in all the abattoirs registered and approved by the ministry.