Northern Ireland-made biltong targets delis and farm shops

A Belfast-based beef biltong company has been launched, celebrating the traditional South African snack.

Ke Nako, which means ‘it’s time’ in Tswana (one of South Africa's official languages), has been introduced by partners Ilse van Staden, a qualified chef from Pretoria in South Africa, and Alanagh Chipperfield, an animal biology lecturer at Belfast Metropolitan College.

The cured beef is now being marketed to delis and farm shops in Northern Ireland and online.

The business partners met during a women’s rugby tour in South Africa in 2011. Van Staden identified a market for traditional cured meats in Northern Ireland, aiming to replicate the snack she enjoyed at home in South Africa.

“Biltong has long been popular in South Africa, because it’s rich in protein and especially popular with rugby players and other sports people as an aid to recovery after training and games,” said van Staden.

“This is because it’s an excellent source of vital minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B12 – all essential for the body to function.

Ke Nako biltong is developed using organic beef, cured in red wine vinegar with a blend of spices, including salt, black pepper, coriander seeds, nutmeg and cloves, before eventually being air-dried. The gluten-free biltong is produced from twice the finished weight of meat, resulting in a concentrated source of nutrients.

“Beef biltong has 57.2g of natural protein in every 100g,” explained Ilse. “And since biltong is cured and not cooked, it retains more of the nutrients than cooked meat as the cooking process can break some of these down.”

Cuts such as brisket are used to produce the meat snack, from suppliers such as Ballylagan Organic Farm near Straid Village in Co Antrim, where van Staden butchers on the farm where the meat is cured and air-dried.

Ke Nako was successfully test-marketed in Northern Ireland, and the firm is now keen to explore opportunities outside the region. The business has developed other traditional South African-style cured products such as Droëwors sausages.

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