Namibian natural beef is renowned for its taste - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Namibian natural beef is renowned for its taste

Avatar of inke inke - 26. February 2019 - Economics

Brahmans and Brahman crossbreeds are among the most popular beef cattle breeds in southern Africa. Photo: Namibia Brahman Breeders Society

Brigitte Weidlich

Many tourists visiting Namibia love the local cuisine with sizzling steaks and grilled spare ribs coming from free-ranging cattle straight “from farm to fork” as advertised by the country’s largest meat-producing company. Namibian livestock is hormone-free, and the beef is a highly sought-after product locally and overseas. 

Cattle are raised on Namibia’s large farms where the animals are only grazing on natural grasses. The animals are born on the grazing grounds where they stay until sold for slaughter. Calves remain with the cows until they are big enough to be weaned. Raising cattle naturally is an ancient tradition of African nomads, who had thousands of cattle grazing in savannahs. Commercial farmers of modern times have learnt from this tradition.

Some 9,500 tons of tasty, natural beef are exported to the European Union annually, about 1,600 tons to Norwegian markets and some 17,000 tons of beef products to South Africa. Negotiations to export Namibia’s prime beef cuts to the USA, China and Hong Kong have been concluded. Russia also showed interest to import beef from Namibia.

Quality controls assure healthy animals 

All beef exports are channelled through the Meat Corporation (Meatco) which has EU-certified export abattoirs. The Meat Board shares some of the responsibilities including quality control of live animals and meat exports. Meatco’s customers include high-end premium retail outlets, restaurant groups, processors and manufacturers. Meatco has developed several branding campaigns for export beef from free-ranging cattle like “Natures Reserve” for special niche markets overseas. There are various products available under the Natures Reserve brand, including standard prime cuts as well as products developed specifically for some of the global clients.

Natures Reserve beef is ISO-, HACCP- and Halaal-certified, and can be traced back all the way to the farm of origin.

Another brand is Farm-assured Namibia (FAN) and again consumers are assured of the traceability of each animal. The farm origins of every animal are known from birth to the abattoir. All livestock in Namibia must have ear tags and animal health and quality control checks are regularly done. The highest standards of product safety, reliability, hygiene and traceability are applied. Processing facilities are regularly verified by independent international audit companies. Meatco has a food quality management system that conforms fully to international food certification requirements.

Several different cattle breeds in Namibia

Since German colonial times well-known cattle breeds were introduced to Namibia like Simmentaler, Holstein, Friesland, Braunvieh, Charolais, but also Angus, Brahman and Afrikaner. In recent years local African breeds like Sanga and Nguni cattle have gained a lot of interest from both commercial and communal farmers.

Though the contribution of agriculture to Namibia’s economy has fallen below five percent in recent years, due to factors like reduced rainfalls, it remains a vital part of it. In 2018, a total of 427,017 cattle were marketed of which 307,874 animals on hoof were exported. 

There exists a ‘red line’

Due to its colonial past, the northern communal areas in Namibia are separated from the commercial farming areas with a veterinary cordon fence, also called ‘red line’ as the fence is marked as a red line on maps. This fence was erected decades ago to prevent animal disease like foot and mouth disease reaching commercial farms. The fence was a condition met to enable beef exports to Europe, which started decades before Namibia’s independence in 1990. 

Communal farmers in northern Namibia also market their animals mostly for the local consumers and for canned meat products like “bully beef” (corned beef).

The Namibian government wants to move the cordon fence further north to the common border with Angola in future.

Namibians are a meat-loving nation and always find reasons to grill beef as a social occasion. To “braai” meat, as this tradition called, is a lovely social pastime and many “braai” methods have been handed down from generation to generation. Another tradition is “kapana” – “braaing” (grilling) small, tasty pieces of meat as a snack in townships, the African answer to fast food. Kapana has become so popular in the meantime, that competitions are organised.

Dieticians might not agree but for locals and tourists alike, a tasty Namibian beef steak or piece of kapana is best consumed together with another local flagship product and that is Namibian beer!

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