Despite significant gender gains, many women in metropolitan Nairobi cannot yet access some of the tastiest meat cuts that largely remain a male preserve.
For example, the free-range chicken locally known as kuku kienyanji is a most sought-after white meat in Nairobi.
This is mainly because of its perceived health benefits and superior taste but it is largely available to males compared to women.
“Chicken is the most loved meal in my house and it better be kienyeji or it has few takers,” says Alice Nderu of Umoja II in Nairobi.
She has three teenagers in the house and a husband all of who say are watching weight hence red meat is a no-go.
A recent national survey by the Kenya Markets Trust shows consumption of red meat to have dropped by about 20 percent among all income groups in the last few years mainly due to health concerns.
This gap is being filled mainly by fish, especially among the highest income groups closely followed by chicken with kuku kienyeji the most preferred.
“Unfortunately the kienyeji chicken is significantly expensive; hence we can’t have it more often, so sometimes I have to cover with the much cheaper but less loved exotic broiler,” said Nderu.
On average a full kuku kienyeji also known as free-range chicken cost from about Sh 700 to Sh1, 200 compared to about Sh 550 for the exotic broilers.
A recent study on the consumption patterns of chicken in some parts of Nairobi found the free-range chicken to be much more popular compared to the broilers but twice as expensive.
Healthier white meat
The study published in May (2021) in the East African Journal of Science, Technology and Innovation, by a team from the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University had engaged 242 Nairobi residents.
The survey carried out in Dandora, Kariobangi, Umoja, Buruburu, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Embakasi Village, Kayole Pipeline, Saika, Nyayo Estate and Imara Daima found kuku kienyeji more popular than other types of poultry meat.
The results showed that there was high consumption of free-range chicken at 78 percent compared to exotic broilers at only about 16 percent among the surveyed residents.
The meat from free-range chicken, the study says is preferred due to its leanness, unique taste, and colour.
Majority of the respondents, 38 percent preferred this chicken due to sweetness, 28 percent perceived it as healthier, while one percent indicated ease of preparation and nice colour as reasons for choice.
The study also showed free-range chicken meat to be popular across all age groups and equally in both males and females. “Free-range chicken was found to be popular amongst all gender.”
However men by far, almost twice as many are likely to consume the preferred kuku kienyeji in the sampled estates compared to females.
“Consumption was higher among males, at 61 percent compared to 39 percent among females,” said the study.
The liver and the highly valued gizzard the report shows are almost exclusively consumed by men in the study area.
An earlier survey in Baringo County found a similar trend where 55 percent of kuku kienyeji consumers were males compared to 45 percent of women.
The reason why more men than women consume the tastier chicken, the study suggests is because they are likely to have more disposable income compared to women.
“The dominance of males over females can be explained by the fact that family budget decision is predominantly made by the males who are working or engage in business activities, therefore, more endowed,” suggests the study.
The Kenya Markets Trust survey had found that almost 60 percent of men in low-income bracket, 52 percent in middle income, and 46 percent of high earners decide on the quantity of meat to be bought.
Women miss out on tastiest chicken
Also likely to miss out on the tastier free-range chicken and make do with the cheaper broiler option are younger ages from 15 to 20 in both genders.
This, the researchers say may be attributed to the fact that most people at this age cannot afford free-range chicken which is significantly more expensive.
It was also noted that the consumption of free-range chicken is at its peak among men and women aged 26 to30 years.
However, as the city residents move to the ages between 36 – 40 years the study found consumption of free rage chicken to decline.
“This can be can be associated with increased responsibility, for instance, paying school fees for secondary school which is expensive thus reduction in purchasing power.”
On average, the study says income among the group raged from Sh 10, 000 to Sh65,000 per month with the latter likely to be in white-collar jobs, better educated and likely to consume kuku kienyeji.
The study found the most popular source of chicken meat in the sampled estates are roadside markets.
Most consumers, the study found to prefer sourcing chicken products from the roadside street markets at 43 percent, followed by kiosks and butchers at 40 percent and extremely few from supermarkets.
About half of the consumers said they preferred roadside markets because they are relatively cheaper and there is room for bargaining.
The researchers are concerned about the safety of the roadside slaughtered chicken where there is no guaranteed clean water, meat inspection, or other necessary food safety precautions.
Last year a team from the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), warned that most chicken meat vendors in Nairobi were operating under unhygienic conditions
The team reported the presence of pests and flies, an unclean vending environment, poor personal hygiene, and lack of appropriate clothing among the vendors
“Our findings demonstrated that chicken products sold in the streets of Nairobi constitute a potential health hazard to consumers because of high disease-causing bacteria which make them unsafe and unacceptable,” the team wrote in the International Journal of Food Science.
By Gatonye Gathura