We have people who are interested in having standard abattoirs. In the future, we know that the meat industry in Nigeria will meet up with the developed countries, and a lot of people will be aware of the danger of not practicing food safety. And then I believe the THE MEAT MILL will be one of the topmost companies where other smaller companies will be looking up to us. Thank you.
Can you tell us more about the company and why you choose to venture into this line of business?
THE MEAT MILL was born out of the desire to do things right. If you compare the meat industry in Nigeria, and how it is done in the developed countries, we would point out the numbers of differences. Knowing that we are dealing with food, we have to take more caution in being super careful. There are different diseases that are mostly originated from what we eat. THE MEAT MILL is established to breach the gap between those other local vendors that don’t do it right and the people that want it done right. So, whenever we are tired, we consider our motive for starting which is TO DO IT RIGHT, and save people out there. Although people go into business majorly for the money, I am motivated to continue in this business because I am passionate about health. You know, I started by considering my own health, my families and immediate friends, and the public’s health.
What are the things that make The Meat Mill unique and stand out?
At The Meat Mill, we do it right! Meat business is a food business. We ensure to practice food safety principles. We practice Halal. We butcher in a modern butchery, well equipped with butchery facilities and sterilized tools. We transport with a cooling van. Our staff are certified food handlers; we train them in the food handling processes quarterly. The meat is not left under uncondusive conditions. They are quickly kept into the blast freezers, where the temperature is dropped and microorganisms are inactivated therefore slowing down spoilage, and rapidly freezing the meats. Our deliveries are express and we deliver to your doorstep in Lagos. When you order your meat from us, just be sure to have healthy, wholesome, and nutrient-dense meat. The passion for what we do and providing healthy meat to our customers always are part of our uniqueness.
You mentioned that at The Meat Mill, you practice Halal. Could you please explain more on the practice of Halal and how has it guaranteed the provision of healthy meats to your customers?
When people hear of HALAL, the first thing they think about is the safety of the Muslims to consume such products. (maybe because they call the name of Allah into the meat before it is butchered). It actually does not stop at that. It is actually a regulation to help prevent the meat from danger. Blood can easily be contaminated. And since livestock has blood in them, so to avoid contamination of the butchered animal, we ensure that the blood is well-drained. The purpose of HALAL is to ensure that the neck region where the jugular vein is situated should be targeted to ensure that the blood gushes out especially while the heart is still pumping. Slaughtering rightly will ensure 95% of the blood out. I once saw on the internet where the butcher cut the live animal from the back of the neck as in cutting off the neck straight up, such meat was highly prone to contamination. When consumers eat such meat they are highly prone to getting food poisoned and sick. But at THE MEAT MILL, we ensure that we follow the HALAL practice. We allow the blood to be completely drained before the head of the animals is cut off. The halal principle also states that animals must be well and alive till the point of death. There are so many health benefits to practicing HALAL.
As a woman, are you comfortable doing this job?
What are the challenges you encounter and how were you able to handle it? Actually, people see this as a man’s job. This is true because it requires a lot of energy. From a butchery point, I am 80% involved in this, that is the sorting and giving of instructions even till the last man’s job. I won’t say I am not comfortable doing this, I actually enjoy helping the community of meat lovers like myself to eat healthily. My passion and commitment to providing every family with healthy, well-processed, uncontaminated, and fresh meat as my inner driving force is the real source of my energy for the job. The challenges are the hard work involved in this. Also, it is really an expensive business to venture into. Getting the proper procedures isn’t easy. Practicing food safety is not cheap too. Another challenge is that people normally want to price us like they are pricing a local vendor, which is not fair. But with time and the power of social media which shows more of our process and environment, people/customers have seen that we have invested so much in the business and are willing to pay for it.
You once said that you could not stop the unwholesome practices at the abattoir. With your coming on board, what are you doing differently now?
Yes!! when I was buying for myself, I could not stop butchers from doing what they want to do. I would shout and shout and shout and they would still do what they had in their mind. and see you as ahh…. “Madam professor” …. But now I am in charge and the butchers have to obey me. We butcher in a very neat environment, we don’t butcher on the bare floor, we package with food-grade package material, and freeze for preservation. Unlike when I used to go buy as a customer, now I am the producer (smiles).
Can you share your thoughts on the increasing number of untrained slaughterhouse workers as well as butchers that are ignorant of sanitary principles and food safety practices?
The truth be told there isn’t enough awareness and information towards the practices on meat and food handling in general. The level of their education can also be a great problem for them. I think that there should be an extra effort in place by some of the food regulations industries in passing information to make them understand the effect of unwholesome practices, especially when handling fresh food products that are highly prone to contamination. I don’t know if it is possible for the government to establish committees or a body that will help sensitize the butchers, sellers and even buyers and everyone in general, the effect of poor handling of meat.
Some Nigerians still buy their meat in open markets where the meats are exposed to flies. How would you react to this? What is your advice considering the health implications?
Like I said earlier, even buyers are not also informed. The need for awareness is important in this industry. The buyers, sellers, and butchers need sensitization on the effect of poor meat handling, and the importance of food safety, this is the best solution, without the sensitization the bad hygiene and poor handling of meat will continue. You know I can’t totally blame them, because they are actually ignorant of the dangers, those that are well informed are already patronizing us. The people that are patronizing them feel the local vendors are cheaper. So they mostly opt for the cheaper and unhygienic product. Most times these local vendors get losses, especially when they have a remaining product that is not kept or preserved properly, the meat changes colour and it becomes unfit for sale. I think these people (local vendors) need help. Once the customers are well informed, the sellers will be forced to do the right thing, I think that is how it works. When you started, your customer base was your family and friends.
What about now?
I have mentioned this before, I started with family and friends, just to eat right and eat healthy meat, just before I brought it to the populace. We are growing by the day. We have developed trust in our customers who have been loyal and have been really supportive and that believe in us. Thank you to all our customers. And we are still growing.
You recently launched into e-commerce with www.themeatmill.com/shop/ in order to delight more customers. How would you rate meat selling through the e-commerce channel?
Truly, meat selling through the e-commerce is relatively new in the Nigerian market and a little bit difficult. A lot of people still believe in the physical purchase, visit the market and buy meat that is exposed to flies, which is dangerous to health. However, we are changing the narrative. We are telling our stories because we value the health of Nigerians. We want every family to have healthy, uncontaminated, and well-processed meat. It is not a day’s job but people are seeing our activities and processes that are displayed, especially on Facebook, Instagram and www.themeatmill.com, and we are receiving good patronages on daily basis. Truly, our e-commerce the platform creates convenience for our customers. Just visit www.themeatmill.com and place your order, and we will process and deliver to your doorstep in Lagos.
Did Covid-19 pandemic impact your business positively or negatively?
The COVID-19 pandemic was kind of an advantage to encourage people to purchase/shop for meat online like there was any other option thou? Then they discovered that we deliver what we promised. Our integrity and professionalism is 100%. What you order is exactly what we deliver. It gave people the confidence to continue purchasing from us, which increased our customer base. Talking about establishments like hotels and eateries etc., it is really a setback, because most hotels have not been doing well lately, most eateries are closed or are struggling due to the pandemic, this has really affected our delivery to them. COVID-19 has had a positive and negative effect on our sales. But I hope all the best for a better 2021.
Do you have any plan or programmes geared towards empowering more people to join this business particularly women?
We cannot do this alone, like how many people can we render our services to in Lagos state considering the population of the state and percentage of households that need healthy meat? So there is a plan on board to train women /men who want to go out there and have a meat shop. We train them on the standards and how to go about it. Once meat shops increase, so many people will have the confidence in buying frozen meat, knowing fully well that being frozen does not mean it is not fresh, as far as it is kept frozen it still retains its nutrients and freshness in its glory. I know you must have a future plan for your company.
Can you tell us and also the standards of abattoirs in Nigeria in the future?