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Nguni beef a healthy winner: University of Fort Hare, June 2006

NGUNI beef proved to be a healthy winner when weighed against Aberdeen Angus and Bonsmara in a recent test conducted by the University of Fort Hare and the Agricultural Research Council’s Meat Science Centre in Pretoria.

Beef cuts (loins) from the three different breeds were tested for tenderness, colour, pH value and water retention capacity. All were evenly matched.

However, further tests showed that the Nguni has low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. For the health conscious, this means that Nguni beef tremendously reduces heart diseases associated with high consumption of red meat.

Its taste for natural pasture has given the Nguni breed advantage over its competitors that are mainly bred through processed feeds
Furthermore, the Nguni is capable of surviving unfavourable conditions and diseases outclassing its counterparts who are not only reliant on processed feeds but as susceptible in harsh environments.

The character of the Nguni is what underpins the University of Fort Hare Nguni Project which has seen 35 communities in the Eastern Cape benefit - with each receiving 10 heifers and two bulls.

According to Animal Production Scientist, Voster Muchenje, Nguni brings value to emerging farmers due to its adaptability, good foraging ability and liking for natural pastures.

This breed is known for its hardiness and has survived for over 2000 years in harsh conditions characterized by droughts, pests and disease like malaria and hartwater.

Muchenje said that the Nguni’s characteristics made it the most inexpensive to breed. He added that it was ideal for farmers, more specifically emerging farmers, as it was expensive to buy feeds and vaccinate the other breeds.

The Nguni Project was launched in July 2004 with the Nguni Institute in Alice to become the top Eastern Cape Nguni researcher and Nguni organic meat exporter.

The plan is to produce and export to niche markets organically produced Nguni beef.

Muchenje is quite confident that Fort Hare’s name, as the leader in the production of the Nguni organic meat, will remain on the “world map”.
He said the project would further strengthen the institution’s meat testing laboratory so that it could be used for research and helping local butchers on handling meat.

Fort Hare, through the Department of Agriculture, has embarked on awareness campaigns locally and beyond provincial borders that will ensure that the Nguni Project has a far-reaching impact.

Already there are collaborations with the University of Free State, University of Stellenbosch and the Agriculture Research Council. The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Department of Agriculture last year also launched a Nguni Project based on the Fort Hare model.

Key persons in the Nguni project are Professor Jan Raats and Nkosi Mzileni – who is assisting in interacting with farmers.

Meat researchers of the Nguni project are, Voster Muchenje, Professor M.Chimoyo –UFH, Professor K. Dzama – in Stellenbosch and Professor Philip Strydom from Agriculture Research Council in Pretoria.

By Sisanda George
sgeorge@ufh.ac.za