Astonishing tails: Ghana street food #3

fried turkey tails in glass-sided box

Turkey tails as I’ve seen them for sale in Ghana. Thanks to for permission to use this pic. Check out their site for lots more great pix of some of the things I blog about.

Did you know that turkey tails are ‘among the most controversial foods in the world‘?

Did you even know that people ate turkey tails?

Well in Ghana they do … or did … or are trying to; against all odds.

The story reads like a thriller.

The fatty delicacies (also known as tsofi  or chofi) were banned in Ghana in 1999 because they were deemed so hazardous to the health of the citizens.

That would explain why I didn’t see much of them on my last trip in 2008, compared to the 1997 visit when my brother was scoffing chofi at every opportunity. Any time we were in a market or taxi park he’d be scanning the crowds for the bobbing head box (pictured above) of a chofi seller. Years later, he was still raving about them.

I’m pleased to note that even in those halcyon pre-ban days I had some nagging doubt about turkey tails. I felt that their very existence begged the question: where is the rest of the turkey? It turns out that it was in North America and Europe. Turkey tails are considered to be waste and were (are still?) sold off to unsuspecting fat-lovers in poorer countries such as Ghana and Samoa.

Well it wouldn’t be the first time that rich western countries have offloaded their unhealthy waste to a developing country. But in spite of their dubious origins and the threat they pose to the nation’s cholesterol levels, cheap and filling turkey tails have become very popular in Ghana.

It’s no surprise then that – as is often the way with contraband – the years since 1999 have not been easy ones for Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board (FDB). Well, at least not after they decided to enforce the ban in 2010, having ‘observed with serious concern the proliferation of turkey tails on the local market in flagrant violation of existing regulations.’ 

Those dratted turkey tail smugglers.

Luckily, the FDB is on top of it. Here’s an example of its successful ‘quest to safeguard public safety’:   ‘banned items were seized from the Greater Hope Cold Store … following a tip-off.’ Phew. What a relief that there are upstanding citizens prepared to dob in a smuggler today. 

But who is really the victim here? After all, as blogger Ato Kwamena Dadzie points out in his post ‘Don’t touch my chofi’ there are plenty of popular Ghanaian foods that are also rich in saturated fats. Where is the evidence, he asks, that chofi is to blame for an alleged national health crisis? Dadzie goes on to point out the glaring inconsistency that alcohol and cigarettes, which arguably cause far more health and social problems, are not banned. Well I’m with him. Don’t ban turkey tails, just get them onto the harm reduction agenda. Although I confess I’ve never eaten chofi. Somehow they never appealed to me. Too fatty.


9 thoughts on “Astonishing tails: Ghana street food #3

  1. Great post. Puts me in mind about lamb flaps in PNG, again a part of the lamb that is generally thrown away. Though unfortunately in PNG the evidence seems pretty good that there is a link between them and obesity problems. But then again, how you single that out from the obesity problems brought on by a generally increasingly fatty diet – thanks multinat food manufacturers – it’s hard to say.

    • Thanks Paul, yes I think turkey tails would be in the same boat. Contributing but not the only culprit by a long shot – especially in Ghana where they eat a lot of oil anyway. I think the law is actually to do with the percentage of fat in imported goods, which turkey tails exceed. It’s the inconsistency that’s the issue really, and the need for attention to other foods & lifestyle issues.

  2. Pingback: Ghana Street food #4: snacks | Border Crossings

  3. Very interesting indeed!
    Inspiring reading that Ghana is looking after the health of its citizens. having said that, as you have rightly pointed out, rather than banning of one product high in saturated fat, how about educating the citizens on all common local delicacies and the harmful side effects if consumed in excess, then you are doing them a much greater favour.

    Never heard of turkey tails in Nigeria, from my local town at least but we do consume lots of fat in our diet, most of which are not good for our health – everything in moderation is my motto.

    • Yes, mine too. Fat can be hard to resist, and I guess where people are always active it’s not a problem, but people are becoming more sedentary the world over. Thanks for the visit 🙂

  4. I understand in some families in the U.S. the “Pope’s Nose” is the prized and fought over piece of the roast chicken. I tried it once but it is too fat for even me. A Turkey version…dunno..that’s a lot of fat.

    • Yes, we call that the parson’s nose & my father & brother both liked it, but I never did – so I never tried turkey tails either. I really don’t feel I’ve missed out on anything.

  5. As someone who cuts every centimetre of animal fat off her food, the very thought of turkey tails makes me feel ill. I don’t do this for health reasons, it’s just that the taste of all animal fat is horrible I think. I can eat spoonfuls of butter, drink cream, but let me get just a speck of bacon fat in my mouth and I have to leave the table! The loss is mine, I’m sure, at least I’ve been told so umpteen times. Enjoyed the article, gave me something new to ponder.

    • I’m not a big fan of it either but a lot of people love it. I’d rather have cream too! Glad you enjoyed the post, thanks 🙂

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