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Ethiopia avails high-quality Ethiopia mutton to the local and export market. Most of it is sourced from family herders and pastoralists communities who contribute a large chunk to the total mutton meat produced across the nation on an annual basis.


Ethiopia’s population for sheep is estimated to stand at 24 million with that of goats lying at 18 million. A very yummy taste characterizes mutton from the horn of Africa. Ethiopian beef is very tasty and nutrition wise it is healthy for human consumption in what is attributed to be the natural conditions the sheep and goats are reared under. Pastoralist communities survive on mutton, but most of the goats and sheep often serve commercial purposes whereby the herders sell them to generate income.

The total export value for mutton in 2017 was USD 72 million. The revenue generated represented both fresh and chilled mutton exports. Ethiopia mutton export markets include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries which consume 60%, 38%, and 2% respectively. UAE and Saudi Arabia consume almost 50 tons of Ethiopia meat on a daily basis.

The name mutton was derived from the Latin multo and was used to refer to the male sheep. Traditionally they only slaughtered male sheep with the female ones used to provide milk and deliver lambs. Eventually mutton ended up as the name for adult sheep meat.

Nutritional purposes

Mutton has a wide range of health benefits to the human body. Mutton is so unique that it surpasses even other leaner meats such as chicken and turkey regarding the nutritional values it constitutes. It is healthier than both beef and pork. It has essential vitamins such as vitamin K, E, B1, B2, B3, B9, B12, and essential proteins, natural fats, calcium, iron, phosphorous and electrolytes.

It helps in rapid weight loss, prevents anemia for the baby and mother during pregnancy, cures cancer plus diabetes, improves the heart rate and has the iron that aids during menstrual pains. Generally, it also makes men stronger and has torpedo and bile that aid men who are experiencing infertility problems.

Fresh, frozen or Chilled Exports

Mutton from Ethiopia is mostly availed to the export market in fresh, frozen or chilled form. The chilled or frozen form of export is predominant because it extends the shelf life of the mutton.

Sheep breeds

Most of the herders rear indigenous types of sheep. Sheep types categories are as follows: Highland long-fat-tailed, sub-alpine short-fat-tailed, lowland thin-tailed, and lowland fat-rumped.

Washera sheep

This is a dominant breed across Ethiopia. It also goes by the name Dangla or Agew sheep and is suited to wet, warmer mid-highlands latitudes between 1600-2000m. A large body size characterizes it, long ears spotted patterns of coat color, and both sexes have no horns. It is found in the Amhara region covering East Gojjam, West Gojjam, Alefa Takusa district in North Gondar zone and Awi zones.

The Afar sheep- Usually small in size, fat-tailed, has short coarse hair and its color is solid blond, light brown and shaded white. They weigh between 30-35 kilograms and are domesticated mostly in Middle Awash Valley located in eastern Ethiopia, Bati town in the North and Dire Dawa. It copes well under extremely harsh climatic conditions.

Arsi-Bale sheep – It is domesticated in the regions of South-Central Ethiopia and highlands of South-Central and Eastern Ethiopia. It has a fat tail and is covered by wavy wool. Climate conditions in these areas range semi-arid to sub-humid, and rainfall is above 1500 mm. They weigh 14.2 Kilograms on average.

Horro sheep- It is mostly found in parts of Illubabor, Jimma, Oromia, western Shoa and East, and West Wollega.

Climatic conditions in those areas range from rainfall of 1000-1400 mm, longitudes between 35-38 ºE and altitudes of 1400– 2000 m. These sheep are mostly light brown although some have creamy white, dark brown. Both sexes are hornless, and their hair is short.

Benishangul-Gumz states home to Dangur and Mandura districts also domesticate this breed.

Packaging and transport

Ethiopia mutton is packed in chops called quarters. Cuts are categorized in six which consist of offal and boneless cuts. Mutton is also delivered in joints all as whole carcasses to local and external markets.

Several materials are used to pack one being the thermoforming film which is placed at the bottom so that the meat can be shipped modified temperatures.

The polyolefin film is used to wrap the met while stockinette bags are used for carcasses.

They are white and contain labels stating the name of the meat, date it was slaughtered as well as the name of the source and its destination. The wrapped meat is placed in cartons that are well corrugated in the inside and well- sealed. Each carton weighs 25 kilograms.

To keep the meat fresh as it was sourced, it is usually frozen first before packing.

Storage of the meat is undertaken in cold rooms before transporting it to the airport for shipping to various destinations.

Vans and designated trucks transporting the meat are thoroughly inspected by the health directorate and the PubMed of Ethiopia.


To further enhance the quality of Ethiopia mutton and adjust to changing trends new measures have continued to be put in place year in year out by relevant institutions.

The country has set up a modern laboratory, chilled storage, loading docks and elevated modes of transport across the nation. Several certified slaughterhouses have also been spread across in the country’s quest to ensure its mutton meets the standards of the international market. On top of that numerous campaigns educating employees in abattoirs as well as suppliers to ensure they are aware of all requirements in handling the product.

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