It is early morning in Kibabii B village in Bungoma County, Western Kenya. Salome Wasilwa is all smiles as she walks around her chicken house.
Recently, she got what she considers a ‘mouthwatering’ order from the newly established chicken slaughterhouse based in Chwele, some 40km away, and she is working on it when we visit.
Normally, she feeds her chickens early morning but on this day, she has not and she is not going to because she is required to starve them for at least 12 hours before they get to the slaughterhouse.
A retired social worker, Salome used to keep an average of 25 chickens at a time, mostly for domestic consumption. But she sometimes used to sell her birds at retail markets and to neighbours at an average of Sh350-Sh400 each.
However, the establishment of the Bungoma Chicken Slaughterhouse by the county government, coupled with training sessions on poultry rearing by Kuku Bora, a private company, has taken her business to a higher level.
She now has 100 birds, most of them hens, from which she anticipates to fetch much more as she is assured of a ready market.
Some of the senior staff members from the slaughterhouse were beneficiaries of SMAP TOT trainings on standards and market access in the meat sector, and clearly, they have shared the lessons with other stakeholders at the grassroots, including Salome.
“We were trained on proper poultry rearing as an agribusiness to earn more income,” she says of SMAP trainings.
Among key issues that she has since learnt include feeding. Initially, she would not care much what her flock fed on, and would leave them to free-range only supplementing what they fed on with dry maize.
Salome now rears her flock more ‘professionally’, feeding them according to their age, and separating those that are meant for meat production from the rest.
“I buy feeds from a supplier who is certified by KEBS, and feed the poultry mashes depending on the age,” she says, adding, “But I still give them maize and some greens,”
The County Investment Conference is around the corner and the poultry abattoir anticipates a high demand of chickens from hotels. Besides, there is also need to slaughter birds for showcasing during the conference, thus, farmers are busy in the country.
Salome has already cleaned her chicken house, a routine she faithfully does every morning. She says she clearly understands the need for a clean environment for her flock, to keep diseases and infections at bay.
As we chat, Kuku Bora Production Manager Peter Njoroge comes for 10 birds from her farm, as he had placed an order earlier. One by one, Salome hands over the birds. Njoroge rejects some of the birds, terming them as too light.
Lastly, he manages to get 10, just as he had ordered. The birds are transported to the slaughterhouse ready for processing.
At the slaughterhouse, a team of workers, each one of them playing a specialised role await this particular ‘batch’ of birds.
The workers are all clad in white dust coats and boots. No jewelry is allowed in slaughterhouses and people who get in should always cover their hair, keep nails short and they should not use perfumes.
Further, such people should be in good health and keep off work if sick. A visitor would imagine that slaughtering kick offs immediately once chickens arrive.
But no, we wait until a qualified veterinary officer arrives to inspect the birds. He does an anti-mortem assessment, checking on the birds’ physical wellness, and gives a go ahead for slaughter.
The birds are hung on metal hooks and are stunned (passed through saline water under electric current to render them unconscious).
A Halal Bureau of Standards–certified slaughter man kills the birds. This particular slaughter man is assigned here because the meat will be marketable and acceptable to Muslims and non-Muslims as well.
Slitting is done as the veterinary officer further inspects the meat both from outside and the internal organs.
The officer is authorised to discard all or part of the meat if he finds any quality and health-threatening signs.
Thereafter, the meat is cleaned, passed through a spiral chiller, graded and chilled in the cold room.
It is then packed in parts or whole to meet different demands for the customers. In Kenya, chicken is considered a ‘prestigious delicacy’ and is associated with festivities such as Christmas season, weddings and big parties.
However, with health experts recommending consumption of white meat, this delicacy has become more and more popular.