Blog

Braai and Brotherhood in South Africa

Caroline Wimberly traveled to Durban, South Africa in late August 2015 to attend three conferences on behalf of Brighter Green. Afterwards, she traveled extensively around the country. This blog is the fourth in a four-part series on her experiences and observations during the trip.

I was told by multiple different Afrikaners (a large ethnic group in South Africa of mostly Dutch descent that developed their own language called Afrikaans in the 18th century) that animal products played a large role in their diets, and I got the impression it was more important as a cultural tradition than anything else. It was the Afrikaner community that started the South African tradition of braai, which is similar to a barbecue, but more deeply-rooted and community-oriented, with a specific braai master in charge.

Braais are not only gatherings where grilled food is served (mostly meat), they are also important points of connection. To emphasize their value across communities, a campaign to formalize a holiday called National Braai Day began. It was endorsed by the country’s National Heritage Council in 2008 and coincides with Heritage Day (September 24). Furthermore, it boasts a world-famous patron, Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has called it, “something that can unite us.”

Read More

Biltong and Drought in KwaZulu-Natal

Caroline Wimberly traveled to Durban, South Africa in late August 2015 to attend three conferences on behalf of Brighter Green. Afterwards, she traveled extensively around the country. This blog is the third in a four-part series on her experiences and observations during the trip.

South Africa is a beautiful country. I was astounded at its topographic diversity, prevalence of various wild animals, and multiple languages (it has 11 official ones, with tribal languages Zulu and Xhosa being the most widely spoken).

Another noticeable feature of South African culture is the prevalence of meat. From Zulus to Afrikaaners to tourists, meat plays a big role in the diets of many South African communities. Even though the country’s per capita meat consumption is about 65 kilograms (143 pounds)—just slightly over half of U.S. consumption levels— meat is pretty much everywhere.

Read More

Sustainability Rejected in U.S. Diet Guidelines. Meat Approved?

The decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) not to include recommendations on sustainability – and more sustainable ways of eating (i.e., less meat, more plants) – in the new revision of the U.S. dietary guidelines can be seen as an obvious victory for the U.S. meat industry. Here’s an example of some of the language you won’t see in the diet guidelines: “…a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet…”

But the outcome can also, taking a longer-term view, be seen as a more subtle victory for environmental and public health advocates.

While the decision may surprise many of us, if we look at who fought against the inclusion of the sustainability criteria and how much money, and therefore power, they have when it comes to making decisions such as these, it makes sense. Read More

Poultry “Progress” in South Africa and Beyond (Part II)

Caroline Wimberly traveled to Durban, South Africa in late August 2015 to attend three conferences on behalf of Brighter Green. Afterwards, she traveled extensively around the country. This blog is the second in a four-part series on her experiences and observations during the trip.

One of the major producers for KFC in South Africa is RCL Foods (previously Rainbow Chicken), which is the country’s largest chicken processor. In 1997, Rainbow Chicken teamed up with U.S. agribusiness Cobb to create Cobb South Africa (now under the umbrella of RCL Foods). This partnership allowed for the introduction of the industry super-breed, Cobb500, into the country. This breed is considered the world’s most “productive” broiler chicken and was developed in the U.K. in the 1970s.

In the style of U.S. poultry giants like Tyson, Rainbow employs vertical integration throughout their supply chain, contracting different growers to provide its poultry products. These providers mimic U.S. growers with factory farm conditions, including indoor confinement of the birds without outdoor access, processed feed, and artificially short life cycles. To give an example of the scale of these growers, here are some production statistics from one Rainbow supplier, Essaurinca from 2013:

  • They expanded from 8 sheds to 11 sheds to increase yields and more effectively provide for KFC quota levels (via the Rainbow supply chain);
  • Through this expansion, they produced 300,000 broiler chickens per 35-day growing cycle (with about 27,000 birds being raised in each shed);
  • They increased from six-and-a-half to eight growing cycles per year, producing around 2.4 million birds per year.

Read More

Poultry “Progress” in South Africa and Beyond (Part I)

Caroline Wimberly traveled to Durban, South Africa in late August 2015 to attend three conferences on behalf of Brighter Green. Afterwards, she traveled extensively around the country. This blog is the first in a four-part series on her experiences and observations during the trip.

As Brighter Green has documented previously (here and here, to start), Western-style fast food chains have expanded quickly in the developing world. Judy Bankman wrote about the effects of these chains on public health and food security in South Africa. I saw my fair share of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outposts during my travels. In fact, I encountered more KFCs in South Africa than any other quick service food chain (including McDonalds). Cheap, “finger-licking” chicken products are highly popular, and due to the quick development of industrial poultry facilities around the country, are widely available.

In 2012, South Africa had more than 600 KFC outlets, with about 8-10% of the commercial chickens produced domestically being sold through KFC, according to a KFC executive. As of October 2015, there are over 800 restaurants, according to KFC South Africa’s website (about a 33% increase from 2012). Below is a map from their website showing the distribution of these locations: Read More