Quality sensitive consumers to push up Kenya’s meat demand

Livestock remains a key sector of Kenya’s economy, contributing up to 12%  of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the expected surge in demand projected to push further growth in the meat industry. The nomad pastoralists, mainly found in Kenya’s Arid and semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), form 70% of the population in the country that keeps livestock.       

Meat at a Kenyan deli section in the supermarket


Meat consumption in Kenya has been rising over the years driven by urbanization and a growing middle class which has created an upswing in demand. However, meat consumption in Kenya is mainly concentrated in urban centers with the two cities of Nairobi and Mombasa accounting for 75% of the total consumption, according to a 2019 report by Kenya Markets Trust (KMT).

“With an annual meat deficit of 300,000 tonnes, Kenya’s meat industry still largely operates sub-optimally, with huge post-harvest losses, low-value addition, poor processing skills and low capacity for quality and safety standards,” said the study.

According to the study, the lack of accurate information on meat consumption patterns and segmentation have been a major barrier to strategies that are designed to develop and transform the livestock and meat industry in the country. For instance, meat traders seeking to target specific consumer groups haven’t been able to do so due to the absence of information on consumption patterns, demographics, preferences as well as demand profiles.

According to KMT, an increasing number of consumers who are demanding quality meat accounted for an additional 54,000 tonnes of beef in the market during the study, implying that consumers are sensitive about the quality of meat that they buy at the market. Therefore, investment in the modernization of the meat industry, putting into consideration safety standards will help to raise demand for meat up from the current 66,000 tonnes annually to 240,000 tonnes in the coming years.

Trade CS Betty Maina and other guests at the meat expo

Meat Expo

Last month (November 2021), Kenya held its first meat expo symposium, organized by the Nairobi-based Nation Media Group. The symposium, which was themed “Safe and quality meat for nutrition, health and wealth creation” was meant to enlighten consumers on the benefits of meat safety as well as highlight the opportunities that lie in the meat sector in Kenya. Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai said the expo would help unlock the sector that supports the livelihoods of more than 10 million pastoralists.

“The main challenge in the meat sector is that it is largely unstructured hence the need to bring everyone together to create linkages. This is what the expo is going to achieve by bringing together the government and private sector to showcase how we can create wealth from meat,” said Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai.

Quality matters

Whereas quality is a major consideration to consumers when buying meat, a study conducted recently by World Animal Protection indicated that buyers in Kenya are increasingly concerned about animal welfare when buying and consuming meat products.  According to the report, meat consumers place a high premium on meat that is produced without antibiotics and is safely transported to the market for slaughter.

The report said over 80% of the people interviewed in Kenya were keen on food safety, which had a huge influence on their purchasing decisions – including willing to pay more for ‘humanely’ produced meat. In addition, the report said 75% percent of people interviewed would stop sourcing as well as tell family and friends to stop if they knew supermarkets sourced meat products from poor animal welfare producers.


There is a huge opportunity on meat trade in Kenya for countries that adhere to safety and animal welfare in the handling of meat. A country like the Netherlands, which is renowned for its quality meat and with strict policies on animal welfare in place, has a ready market locally. All the slaughterhouses in the Netherlands comply with-quality standards with animal welfare forming an integral part along the value chain- from farm to the abattoir. The high safety standards in the Netherlands, which is one of the largest exporters of meat in Europe, has made it possible for tracing the product throughout the stages of production, which can be traced back to the farm.

Kenya and Netherlands have an Agricultural Working Group that was formed in 2019 to provide a framework for sharing knowledge and expertise in veterinary and phytosanitary areas with the view to promoting sustainable agricultural trade. Under the veterinary segment, the two countries discuss animal health and have so far signed the veterinary certificate that allows for the export of pork and pork products from the Netherlands. The certificate, which can be found on the website of NVWA, provides Kenya’s consumers with the option to import high-quality products.

The Dutch Meat Association (COV) says its members will start exporting meat to Kenya following this milestone between the two countries.  The Dutch producers (slaughterhouses and cutting plants) are now exploring Kenya’s market and reaching out to importers in Kenya as they seek to upscale the export volumes.

“Only small amounts have been exported so far but it is expected that in a few weeks the first containers with canned meat and other meat products will be shipped to Kenya,” said Mr Ruben van Rooij, an official with the meat association.

Mr. Ruben van Rooij, an official with the COV, said Kenya has great potential because of the surging middle-class coupled with a general growing population. The official also noted that increasing better infrastructure such as the cold-chain facilities makes the country an interesting market in Africa. “For meat products, we are expecting to export 200 tonnes in 2022 and to increase these numbers in subsequent years,” he said.

COV is a branch organisation that represents the Dutch red meat industry, which includes fresh pork, beef, lamb and goat meat as well as heat-treated meat such as canned meat and sausages. “The Dutch companies offer consistent, reliable products of high quality. They all fulfil EU standards. All aspects desired by the growing middle class in Kenya who shop more and more in the bigger supermarkets. These bigger outlets are a perfect way to present our products,” he said. The official said that at the moment they see growing opportunities for the export of pork and meat products to Kenya.

Preferred meat

Chicken remains the most preferred type of meat in Kenya with consumers, especially from the high-income households preferring white meat to other types. The type of meat consumed by the households majorly depends on the income. White meat, which tends to be expensive at the market, is highly consumed by families in the upper-income bracket. 

For instance, a report by KMT showed that the majority of consumers of chicken are from high-income families (96 percent), followed by middle and low income at 88 percent and 82 percent of households consuming chicken respectively. Fish is the second highly consumed meat among the high-income households then followed by beef and goat meat. However, pork and mutton are consumed by a minority of consumers in this segment.

Kenya’s department of livestock says chicken is the most preferred meat consumed in Kenya at 92% percent followed by beef at 85% and fish coming in third at 79% percent. This high consumption of chicken as compared to other sources of meat could have been a result of the myth that white meat is healthier than red the red one, according to the government.

For questions for the agricultural counsellor feel free to contact us via nai-lnv@minbuza.nl. For the latest updates follow us on twitter @NLAgriKenya or register for our newsletter by sending an email.