Lu Donglin has a 10-acre compound in Kenya’s Baringo County which is full of donkeys. Here, donkey farmers shephered their animals into the compound ready for slaughter.
Previously, nobody had interest in donkey meat until the Chinese arrived and opened a new market that has turned the beasts of burden into livestock for slaughter. But now, the average price of an adult donkey in Kenya has increased by around 225% since Feb 2017 from Sh 4,000 to the current price of Sh 13,000 on strong demand from the Chinese market.
Donkey meat was previously worthless – and nobody was interested in slaughtering the animal.
Welcome to Goldox, a donkey slaughterhouse, which is turning the tonnes of donkey bones into bone meal, an important ingredient that is used as organic fertiliser and for animal feed preparation.
Also, the Chinese demand for donkey gelatine is now threatening the Chinese and African donkey populations, putting the price of donkeys out of reach for subsistence farmers who are selling them in droves. From the donkey skin, the Chinese make a traditional medicine ejiao, which has been used for over 2,500 years.
A donkey skin fetches up to Sh30,000 on the black market and this has increased donkey thefts in Kenya. Most of the donkeys found slaughtered had their ears, skins and tails missing.
Bone meal is an organic fertiliser that is a good source of phosphorus while for animals, it supplies mainly proteins.
“We export the bone meal to China and also sell locally to animal feeds manufacturers,” says Lu (pictured here).
In this compound, we are told, Goldox slaughters up to 400 donkeys in a day and he employs more than 400 workers.
But it is the value addition that is now earning him money. For besides the meat, he has to process the bones after they are dried in the sun to remove water and blood.
On the other hand, the animal innards like liver, intestines and lungs are cooked under high temperatures and later dried in the sun. A huge chunk is sold to a Korean investor who rears crocodiles.
For the dry bones, they are crushed with some of the innards and boiled under high temperatures of between 350 and 400°C to kill any pathogens that include salmonella contaminants.
Thereafter, the powder is cooled and packed into 50kg bags that go for Sh750.
“Once boiled, the bone meal is safe for use and is more nutritious since it has protein, calcium and phosphorous.”
SUBJECTED TO HIGH TEMPERATURES
The product is mixed with other ingredients like whole maize, maize germ, cotton seed cake and soya beans to make chicken feeds, for instance.
The investor says the production capacity of the Sh300 million slaughterhouse is 15-20 tonnes of bone meal per day.
“My plan is to expand the bone meal facility so that it can crush more since the market for the product is huge both in Kenya and abroad,” says Lu.
Dr Anthony King’ori, a livestock production expert at Egerton University, says recycling the waste materials is not only beneficial for the environment, it also prevents substantial loss of income for the investor.
“The recycling cleans the environment since one would not find the bones strewn all over interfering with germination of grass and other plants. It takes a long time for the bones to biodegrade.”
Dr King’ori says meat and bone meal is an excellent source of protein, calcium, phosphorous, Vitamin B-12 and numerous other minerals that are necessary to an animal’s health.
“The minerals in the bone meal such as calcium and phosphorous helps the animals to form a strong skeleton.”
However, he warns that the bones must be subjected to high temperatures to sterilise any pathogens.
“The bones should be highly heated to temperatures of even up to 400°C so that they do not become an avenue of transmitting donkey diseases such as arthritis (inflation of joint), hoof deformity, liver diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary among others to animals,” said Dr King’ori.
But pundits are now saying that the demand for donkeys is threatening their numbers.
According to industry statistics, Chinese ejiao production consumes some 4m donkey skins per year. China’s donkeys numbered 11m two decades ago, but this figure has fallen below 6m, both as a consequence of booming ejiao production and the mass migration of rural Chinese, who formerly raised donkeys, into cities. Domestic supply is capped at less than 1.8 million and this leaves Deej and its smaller competitors heavily reliant on imports.