To Ghanaians and most west Africans, “wele” needs no introduction. Wele or pomo as used by Nigerians is simply cowhide or cow skin which has been processed into consumable meat. Unless you have your reservations about this local delicacy, there is no way you will buy waakye (rice and beans cooked together) without adding wele to the meal. Wele is however not limited to only waakye. It is enjoyed with several types of stews and soups in all domestic and commercial cooking. In case you never knew, this is the same material used to make most leather products, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products that we see around us.

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Waakye with wele (middle) , spaghetti and fish

As enjoyable as this meat may be, there are growing concerns on the way Wele is processed, the health risks involved in its processing methods and most importantly the nutrient content. Some people argue that wele has no nutrients at all and therefore should not be eaten. Others are of the view that it is a form of protein and therefore should be enjoyed as such. As curious as I am I decided to do my own investigation and draw my conclusions from my findings.

 

HOW WELE IS PROCESSED

The processing of wele is considered a “health hazard” by health experts in the country. This is because the cowhide is burnt with car tyres in order to get rid of all the hair on the skin. As if that is not poisonous enough, most of these butchers burn this meat close to rubbish dumps. You can imagine the amount of “poison” we are consuming.

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Butcher burning wele (pomo) at a rubbish dump

According to a Dietician at Community Hospitals Group RD Edwina Opoku, this process can make the wele carcinogenic rendering it unsafe for consumption. she advised that people should take their medical and family histories concerning their cancer risk into consideration before consuming wele.

After burning, the wele is subjected to intense scrubbing to remove the soot and then soaked in water before it is put out there on the market for sale.

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Wele (pomo) charred on a makeshift grill

 

NUTRIENT VALUE

Let’s have a look at the nutrient value of a 40g sample of wele.

Calories 150kcal Sodium 0 mg
Total Fat 4 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 1 g Total Carbs 0 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 0 g
Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 0 g
Trans 0 g Protein 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Vitamin A 0% Calcium 0%
Vitamin C 0% Iron 0%

Source: www.foodsng.com

According to the results we have above, we can clearly see that wele is lacking in a lot of essential nutrients and gives the consumers nothing but a hurting jaw after eating.

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Washed wele (pomo) after burning process

Further research showed that wele contains some form of protein called collagen. The intake of collagen ensures the cohesion, elasticity and regeneration of skin, hair, tendon, cartilage, bones and joints. This sounds like good news right? From a nutritional point of view, wele should not be the only form of meat in a meal since collagen does not contain all the essential amino acids in the proportions that the human body requires. Other forms of meat should be added to provide the kind of protein that wele lacks.

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Wele (pomo) displayed for sale

CONCLUSION

My findings leave me disappointed because I really hoped that our favourite wele had more to offer in terms of nutrition. However, apart from the way it is processed before it is brought to the market, I do not have much concern about the consumption of wele. If there are much cleaner ways of processing it, we should pursue it because no one wants to die from eating something as delicious as wele. Dietician Edwina Opoku in our interaction on the topic stated that in light of its nutritional value, she would not recommend it for people with Obesity, Dylispidemia (high cholesterol) or hypertension because it contains empty calories (energy without essential nutrients) and is made up of about 10% fat.