Consumption of Cow Skin (Ponmo) in Nigeria

woman selling cow skin ponmo

People frequently say, “Cow skin (Ponmo) has no nutrients, nutritional benefits, or value.” But how true is this statement? This low-cost protein source has endured this narrative for so long that it now screams for redemption. Yes, cow skin is thick and tough, making it ideal for leather goods but not so much for food. However, it is edible and is consumed a lot in Nigeria (in fact it is a guilty pleasure) as well as in other West African countries such as Ghana, Togo, and Cameroon.

As a community nutritionist, I believe it may be a healthy, nutritious, and delicious meal or snack if properly prepared and cooked. Contrary to popular opinion, the nutritional composition of this popular and widely available meat is given below.

Nutritional Profile of Cow Skin (ponmo)

“A 100g of boiled, thick cow skin contains about 224.65kcal of energy, 6.80g of carbohydrate, about 43.9g of water, 46.9g of protein, 1.09g of fat, and 0.02g of fibre. It also contains certain micronutrients, small amounts of calcium (61mg), iron (4.3mg), magnesium (12mg), phosphorus (36mg), and Zinc (6.79mg).

Taking into consideration the nutritional profile above; Ponmo has a low nutritional value when compared to other high-quality protein sources, owing to the lack of essential amino acids. It does, however, contain a high concentration of collagen, which is the most abundant protein in our body. Now, because our bodies produce collagen, we do not need to eat it for growth and development.

Ponmo can be an excellent weight loss substitute that has fewer calories and tastes good when cooked properly in meals. Ponmo should not replace high-quality complete protein sources like beef and fish.

Cow Skin (ponmo) is a Collagen-rich Food

Simply put, collagen is the “glue” that ties our bodies together. According to some studies, it accounts for roughly one-third of the protein in the body. However, when you enter your thirties and forties, your body begins to produce less and less collagen. Consuming collagen-rich foods may help to restore what your body loses as you age.

Examples of collagen-rich foods are bone broth (by far the highest supply), chicken, fish and shellfish, egg whites, citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruits, garlic, leafy green vegetables, beans, cashews, and bell peppers.

The Need for Collagen

Wrinkles may form as our ability to manufacture collagen declines. As a result, this protein source may be beneficial to our senior citizens and others, particularly those in need of a collagen boost. Collagen aids in the formation and maintenance of a wide range of tissues, including bones and cartilage, as well as skin, hair, eyes, and the digestive system.

The Federal Government’s Concerns

Although the global leather goods market is presently valued at over $400 billion USD, it is predicted to nearly double to 750 billion USD by 2030, with China being the world’s top manufacturer of leather goods in all categories. Rather than proposing a ban on Ponmo consumption in Nigeria, the Federal Government can adopt regulations to ensure that more cowhides are allotted to the leather sector, allowing the country to tap into the expanding market share for economic activity and growth.

Also, considering the abundance of this food material in Nigeria, can the Federal Government invest resources toward the manufacturing of collagen supplements or powder? Bovine collagen is abundant in bovine sources such as cows and pigs. After being collected from animal hides, it can be processed into collagen powder for food fortification.

A Matter of Public Health Concern

My main concern is the public health risk posed by the unsanitary preparation procedures for customers. This is mostly due to the number of pollutants introduced into this food material during processing. Several chemicals and other potentially dangerous substances such as vehicle tires, and rubber as used as fuel. Cow skin (ponmo) processing can be regulated to ensure hygienic standards are met. Some ponmo traders are claimed to soak their ponmo in Formalin to increase the thickness and size. This is a widely used and harmful profit-making strategy. This toxin is especially dangerous when it begins to accumulate in the body since it can severely harm the kidneys and liver. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are another form of pollutant produced by the combustion of carbon-based goods being thrown into the fire while heat processing of cow skin.

How to Reduce the Amount of PAHs in your Diet

  • Reduce or discontinue the use of cigarettes, cigars, or vaping devices.
  • Limit your intake of roasted or toasted meals (cereals, grains, etc.)
  • Limit your intake of grilled and smoked foods.
  • To limit the quantity of fat leaking and burning, choose leaner cuts of meat.
  • Raise the grill grate higher over the flames to reduce charring.
  • Remove the charred parts of the meat and fish.

If you must eat cow skin (ponmo), I suggest you purchase from hygienic production sites.