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Kenyan meat processor banks on taste to capture the international market

NAIROBI, Kenya- It is business unusual for Quality Meat Packers Limited (QMP), one of the few companies specializing in meat processing in the country.

The firm, which specializes in selling high-quality meat both locally and internationally, has invested heavily in research to enhance quality.

Capital Business sat down with Diamond Velji and Rita Velji, the Directors of the firm at their Ruai based processing plant, in a bid to understand what happens at a meat processing plant to prepare any type of meat, say beef, fish, chicken or lamb till it ready for eating.

“All we do is about the people, enhancing the quality and flavor of our more than 100 different raw and processed products,” Diamond said.

‘Taste’, Diamond added, is everything, as he took this reporter through the process of getting the best flavor and quality from the animals they receive.

Quality Meat Packers/COURTESY

But all this, they explained, is within the international quality operating procedures, all approved by relevant government bodies like the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KEBs).

In order to differentiate their services, QMP not only sells whole meat protein products but also provides clients with customized solutions ‘to make their lives easier.’

One example of the process is marination, which is done exactly to meet a client’s specifications.

This, Diamond explained, is meant to “ensure that the product is of the correct weight and of the highest quality standard with a consistent taste.”

How does the firm marinate their meat and what is your take home?

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Well, from the onset, Diamond and Rita explained it is not a uniform procedure, but it is based on the needs and requirements stipulated by the client, the market and the use of the product.

“No one wants their meat to taste the same as that of their competitor,” Rita pointed out.

Rita went on to take the reporter through their various procedures:

QMP offers different ranges of products to their various customers, these include dry aging, wet aging, and various forms of marination based on customer taste and profile.

The dry aging process involves selection of suitable cuts of meat which are selected from high grade beef and lamb carcasses.

These are hung in an aging chamber where they are hung for a period 7 to 21 days, based on customer request.

During this process temperature and humidity are controlled to ensure breakdown of enzymes in muscle fibers to tenderize the meat and make it more succulent.

The wet aging process involves creation of brine solution (cold water and proteinases).

Proteinases comes from plants such as papain (papaya) and bromelain (pineapple).

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These are widely known and used natural tenderizers which help breakdown the fiber in meat, thus tenderizing the meat and making it more succulent.

This process is done using specialized machinery, brine mixer, brine injector and tumbler.

In the past this process would be done by Chefs and users at the kitchen, but now there is an increased demand for it to be done at the factory floor in line with recently released KEBS standards for marinated meat and poultry products.

This wet aging process starts with selecting the tender cuts of meat and passing it through a brine injector where the brine enters the meat, thus breaking the tough fibers in the meat.

After this, the meat will be put into a temperature-controlled tumbler, as it rotates and massages the meat under cool temperatures, it will retain the brine allowing for the start of tenderization to take place.

After this product will be packed in specialized vacuum bags and sealed on a highly automated packing line.

These products will then be placed into the “wet aging chamber” and stored for a period of 1 to 21 days again based on customer requirements. The end product is a finely aged and matured steak that is much more tender and succulent.

One element noted by this writer during the walk around of QMP was the extensive use of machinery and technology that makes QMP a world-class facility.

“These machineries are mostly imported from Germany and Europe and represent a major capital investment for the company,” Rita said.

She added that, “The use of machinery and technology allows us to control the consistency of all finished products, as well as ensuring that the product is produced in a safe environment. Records are maintained as a control measure for consistency.”

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Further, they explained that all machine operators are trained to take responsibility of their respective departments and ensure that all equipment, mixing bins, and related components are properly cleaned and stored.

Daily lab analysis is done on products, machinery, surfaces and personnel to ensure that the products are being produced in the safest and most hygienic manner as per relevant regulation and standardization.

As stipulated by KEBS standardization, products are also sampled and analyzed by them on an annual basis, and furthermore on a quarterly basis as per FSSC standardization.

QMP also offers the use of the machinery for customers to create their own solutions composed of various spices, to be marinated into their meat, whether white or red meat.

This allows various customers the use of our facilities to impart their specific flavors onto their meat.

“The key to everything we do is to offer a one stop shop solution and to provide customization for client specifications while maintaining the highest possible quality standards,” Diamond said.

Quality Meat Packers is amongst the few ISO and Halal certified meat processors in Kenya.

To ensure quality is maintained, the firm has a government veterinary officer and 5 meat inspectors permanently stationed at the plant.

The company produces a wide assortment of Halal proteins including beef, lamb, goat, chicken and fish products.

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QMP is the only Kenyan meat company that represents the country at the annual Gulf Food exhibition.

The event focuses on modern agricultural technologies and utilizing renewable natural resources to enhance food production.

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