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By Staff Reporter

DESPERATE Zimbabwe government officials are toying with the idea of recommending donkey meat as a substitute for beef which is in short supply nationwide, New Zimbabwe.com has learnt.

Ministers have heard from government scientists and health officials about the viability of donkey meat as an alternative to beef which vanished from the official market following government price controls.

A government Principal Veterinary Public Health Officer Dr Kaurai Edward Masanganise said there was no harm in consuming donkey meat. He said the only limitation was deeply-seated social and cultural beliefs.

Masanganise told New Zimbabwe.com on Monday that research had shown donkey meat was a healthy delicacy at par with beef, mutton, chicken and ostrich. The findings have been passed on to ministers.

“Scientifically there is nothing wrong in eating donkey meat except that the country’s regulations and statutory laws only permit the eating of livestock such as cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and ostriches. Our social and cultural background considers donkeys as animals for labour,” said Dr Masanganise.

Findings by the Zimbabwe scientists and health officials dovetail into a recent research by Botswana’s National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) which concluded donkey meat was as good as fish and less susceptible to disease.

The laboratory research findings and analysis on donkey meat came to the conclusion that the meat was actually healthier than beef.

“The fats are quite good. The meat is nutritious and compared to beef donkey meat is not susceptible to disease, they just don’t need to be overworked,” said one of the researchers, Tumelo Tlhong.

The NFTRC stand was one of the most popular at the Global Expo Botswana held last month. It was the only place where visitors with broader culinary taste got to sample sausages made of donkey meat.

Not many visitors seemed keen on eating donkey meat. At the fair, there were basically three groups -- those who swallowed mouthfuls without blinking, the reluctant who nippled morsels before spitting them out and those who did not touch the meat at all.

Although the Zimbabwe government is unlikely to recommend donkey meat, the country faces the immediate problem of dwindling beef supplies as farmers refuse to sell their cattle at government gazetted prices.

Unexamined beef has surfaced on the thriving black market.

In butcheries which have beef, a kilogramme is selling for between Z$15 and Z$20 million.

The consumption of donkey meat might be one of the many ways to halt the dependence on beef, at a time the country is making efforts to restore the national herd, said Dr Masanganise.
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