The Shocking Maasai Diet of Traditional Tribes in Kenya

Maasai Diet and Lifestyle

Africa, like most of the rest of the world, is constantly developing. Many of the traditional nomadic tribes that used to roam the rugged terrain have since settled into communities, no longer practicing their old ways. The Maasai tribe, however, still retains over one million members, some of which continue their traditional nomadic behavior across Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai diet is one of their most distinguishing characteristics. The core of their meals is a sort of carnivorous trinity – meat, milk, and blood. Some tribes will incorporate additional ingredients, like corn, honey, bark, tubers, vegetables, and even sugar. Though their diet is limited, their good health has astounded scientists – probably largely due to high activity levels.

The Maasai believe that God (called Engai by the tribe) created cattle specifically for them, and they consider themselves the world’s custodians of cattle. The tribes measure their wealth in livestock, with an emphasis on cattle. Because of the important placed on bovines, Maasai travel frequently to let their herds graze. Since they migrate frequently, they don’t have the need for farms or other stagnant food production. We’re going to break down Maasai food and explore the nuances of their unique diet; while it may seem shocking to westerners, it’s normal among many global cultures. That being said, this article does contain depictions some may find disturbing.

Meat

Maasai tribes get most of their sustenance from meat. Though the tribe places high importance on cattle, their diet is mostly comprised of sheep and goat. Cows are only slaughtered for ritual festivals. When livestock is harvested, the men of the tribe eat first, separately from the women, children, and elders. Some of the organs and some blood are usually consumed raw within minutes of the slaughter. They will sometimes cut thin slices of meat to enjoy raw as well.

Most of the meat is roasted around a fire with no seasoning. The fire imparts some natural smoke flavor, but beyond that the taste is that of completely natural meat. The men get first pick over the cuts they want, cooking the animal soon after killing it. When they are completely done eating, they will bring the rest back to the village for the rest of the tribe to consume.

Milk

Milk is a very important part of the Maasai diet. More specifically, fermented milk is consumed frequently, possibly contributing to their healthiness. Similar to yogurt, this beverage is abundant because of their emphasis on keeping, but not killing cattle. It’s typically mixed with blood or even urine to aid in the fermenting process. More recently, some tribes have began mixing boiled corn with the sour milk to make it more filling. This is typically enjoyed for breakfast, but is eaten as much as three times a day by tribe members. The milk and corn is prepared in a clay pot, but like most of their liquids, it’s stored in a long gourd with a little bit of ash to keep it fresh. The Maasai believe fermented milk is full of vitamins, which is why it plays such a huge role in their diet.

Blood

As mentioned previously, cattle are not typically slaughtered in Maasai tribes. They’re used for milk and for blood. To harvest the blood without killing the bovine, the tribe ties rope tightly around its neck. A member then uses a bow and arrow with a special spike arrowhead to puncture the artery in the cattle’s neck. A gourd is used to collect the blood, and it’s enjoyed immediately or saved for other uses. The wound heals within a few days. Beyond raw blood, the Maasai diet also includes it in soups and stews, and in the aforementioned yogurt-like drink.

Meet the Maasai

The Maasai are a friendly people and with the right connections, you can meet them. There’s some speculation whether the tribes open to meeting tourists are actually traditional Maasai or whether they’re putting on a show and selling trinkets for money. Regardless, the experience is educational and eye-opening. Maasai are decorated in beautiful red garbs and elaborate jewelry, and they show it off through traditional dances that involve jumping high straight in the air. It’s a wonderful experience and one worth exploring if you’re planning a trip to Kenya.

Have you met the Maasai or other traditional tribes in Africa? Share your experience in the comments – we would love to hear about it.

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