01 August 2022

Zulu’s research investigates the purchase motivation of meat analogues in middle-income consumers in Mbombela, South Africa. It introduces an alternative to meat and investigates what motivations will enable its effectiveness in the South African market. The research findings have proven that people are well aware of the effects of production and consumption of meat and are more skeptical about laboratory meat.

“Meat analogues are food products that have been manufactured and processed using a variety of plant proteins, cell and insect-based proteins to mimic the aesthetics, nutrients and taste of meat,” she explains. “The production of meat uses the most land, water and energy. It has hazardous effects on the environment, ethical issues about animal welfare, and adverse health issues that arise from prolonged consumption.”

Since meat analogues are a novel product, she notes, they would offer employment opportunities both in the farms and labs, they provide healthy protein and they do not impose harsh production conditions. The research found that consumers were not too trusting of such a product and feared that it would also have a negative effect in the future.

“Others couldn't just give up meat altogether because it was part of their tradition during weddings, lobola negotiations and other culturally inclined practices to slaughter and consume meat,” she adds. “While others just didn't care; all they wanted was meat in their diets. Vegans and vegetarians were very receptive of meat analogues.”

Her research recommends vigorous education on meat analogues, including them in the school syllabus from a very young age.

“Marketing the great benefits such as job creation for our people, healthier way to consume meat and showing the impact of meat production instead of hiding it to boost meat sales,” she reveals.

Research as motivation

The research, she says, is affirming and has persuaded her to reach greater heights. "It really is my biggest achievement thus far. It's a testimonial to the potential I have as a student. During my time at UMP I was not part of the top achievers academically.

But the research is the gratification I needed to motivate me to go back to school. I want to feel like this all the time, like I'm capable of being amongst the underdogs but somehow coming up on top,” she beams.

“When I mention that I have published a paper internationally as a UMP undergraduate I see the glimmer in people's eyes. It is helpful in terms of showing my abilities, it gives credit to my research capabilities even when I seek employment. I know it sets me apart.”

Zulu is among the 189 UMP graduates that received an internship through the UMP student graduate programme. “Being placed at Hygro Training College means a lot to me because it's an internship that will provide me with the training and experience I need to go further in my career.

“This placement will change my life because it will offer me the long-awaited opportunity to take all I've learnt in school and put it to use. Experiencing the real-life scenarios, coming up with solutions and contributing to the maintenance and growth in production are added benefits. It will also offer me much more insights in the agricultural sphere than any textbook could.”

Zulu is among the first Bachelor of Science cohort of graduates. “I wish to pursue my master’s degree at UMP and continue publishing my work across the globe, putting not only myself on the map but also my small community in Mbombela, my country, and most importantly, the university that cultivated all that I was able to accomplish.”

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied.