India’s changing appetite throws up meaty issues


Published — Thursday 7 February 2013

Last update 7 February 2013 12:14 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

With German sausages, French duck delicacies and homegrown chicken, Francis Menezes is cashing in on the growing appetite for meat among Indians — even in one of Mumbai’s most strictly vegetarian areas.
In the upmarket neighborhood of Malabar Hill, numerous shops, restaurants and even some apartment blocks remain meat-free.
But Menezes, co-manager of the Cafe Ridge food store, says he does a brisk trade in “non-veg,” especially with those who have studied abroad.
“The new generation are cool with eating anything,” he said.
India’s booming middle-class is driving the demand for meat in a country with a traditionally low intake — a survey in 2006 showed that 40 percent of the population were vegetarian.
Fish and meat have long been part of other Indians’ diets but for many they used to be a rarity, said Arvind Singhal, chairman of the consumer consultancy group Technopak Advisers.
“With rising disposable incomes, meat consumption is increasing,” he told AFP. “Before meat would have been seen as for a special occasion.”
Members of the Jain faith and some groups within India’s majority Hindu religion hold vegetarianism as an ideal. Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi espoused a meat-free diet as part of his non-violent philosophy.
But fewer of the younger generation appear to feel the same.
Despite coming from a “hardcore veg” Hindu community, Ishita Manek is an enthusiastic member of the Mumbai Meat Marathon, a group that gets together every weekend to try out protein-heavy dishes.
“It’s just to do with the country progressing. The mindset is changing and no one really sticks to traditional values anymore,” she said, although she admitted her mother dislikes her love of beef, a taboo under Hinduism.
There are no recent figures on overall meat consumption, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2007 put India’s per capita intake at 5.0 to 5.5kg — the country’s highest since records began, with further increases expected.
With chicken a favorite meat, the rapid rise of the domestic poultry market is a good indication of changing diets.
Currently worth an estimated $ 9 billion, it is growing at an annual rate of 20 percent, driven by broiler meat, according to Technopak.
Farm manager Vijay Sakhrani turned to the broiler business back in 1982 with 2,000 chickens. He now rears more than 800,000 a year as a contract farmer for Indian poultry giant Venky’s.
“You have self-employment, you require a small space. In a small space you can do a lot of business,” he told AFP in Koregaon Mul village, 30 kms from western Pune city, where he said numerous other farmers had followed his foray into poultry.
Venky’s general manager Vijay Tijare described a “chicken revolution” going on in India and one, he believes, that can supply the need for economical protein among the nation’s 1.2 billion people.
The company’s thriving fortunes enabled it fund the takeover of the leading English football club Blackburn Rovers three years ago.
With a median age of 26.5, India’s calorie needs are set to grow faster than the population, but the domestic supply of vegetable proteins has not kept up with demand and India is now the biggest importer of pulses.
Others see mass-produced meat as only doing damage to middle-class diets, especially when cooked at the growing number of fast-food joints. While malnutrition is wide-scale among India’s poor, an estimated 63 million in the country had diabetes in 2012.
“Industrial meat is adding to the crisis in health,” said food security analyst Sangita Sharma.
“Consumers are oblivious as to what is going on their plates.”
Changing consumption patterns also threaten to exacerbate the country’s environmental pressures.
India is the world’s top buffalo meat exporter, despite the beef taboo, and the leading emitter of greenhouse gas methane from livestock, according to a report from the New York-based think tank Brighter Green last year.
Citing water scarcity and intense strains on land, the group said it was crucial for India to promote plant-based diets and prioritise less resource-intensive industries than livestock.
“With 500 million cows, buffalo, goats, sheep, camels and billions of chickens, 600 million farmers and 1.2 billion people, the competition is on in India for natural resources,” said its report.
Singhal too expressed concerns, especially the challenge thrown up in diverting grains to animal feed, which critics say takes food away from the poorest members of society.
He said one way to ease the pressures was to think beyond India’s traditional desire for self-sufficiency.
He criticized a ban on poultry imports from the United States, despite the fact that chicken legs are popular in India but often go to waste in America. The ban is purportedly to prevent bird flu but has been challenged by Washington as disguised trade restrictions.
India’s per capita meat consumption for now remains well below the Asian average, but with its population due to become the world’s largest in coming years, analysts are calling for greater attention to how its food is produced.
“India needs to realize it is not a vegetarian country,” Singhal said.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: A whopping 67 percent of people who seek help at the emergency units of hospitals do not need urgent attention, says a study.The research, published by a local publication on Friday, found that these people are only likely to delay others fro...
JEDDAH: A special court has sentenced a Syrian national to 19 years in jail for supporting Al-Qaeda and other terror-related activities.The sentence includes three years for forgery, three years for information technology offenses and 18 months for v...
JEDDAH: The Kingdom has taken the right approach to counter the operations of terrorists groups, which includes cutting off their funding, according to several leading experts.This comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia blacklisting on Thursday 12 people...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) won the award for providing the Best E-Government Service among Gulf Cooperation Council countries.The award, “Best E-Government Service” for the E-Commercial Registration, was given during the four...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Education and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) have signed several agreements to boost science and technology teaching at schools.The agreements were inked by Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, p...
RIYADH: The Kingdom and Britain signed an executive agreement on Wednesday in Riyadh on medical training for Saudi postgraduate students on specialized subjects.The agreement was signed by Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of State for Com...
JEDDAH: Of youths under the age of 20, 5 to 10 percent suffer from diabetes, said Vice President of the Saudi Society for Children’s Medicine and head of the third annual conference for diabetes patients Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Toweim.The two-day...
TAIF: Voters taking photographs inside election booths would have their votes disqualified for the municipal council elections taking place on Dec. 12, according to Taif’s election committee.They would also be excluded if they use their mobile phones...
ISLAMABAD: Jamia Ashrafiya President Sheikh Fahad Rahim has lauded the role of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman as well as the Muslim World League (MWL) in serving the cause of Islam and uniting Muslims around the world.He was speaking d...
JEDDAH: The Memon Welfare Society (MWS) felicitated meritorious students from the community at its fourth annual awards distribution ceremony here recently.Abdullah Yousuf was the first to come and take his prize for securing top position in Grade 8...
RIYADH: A Filipino worker claims that he has been waiting for over a year for his former company to pay him SR68,880, which is his end-of-service benefit after leaving the company last November and returning home.Bukhari Nor Cali, 59, from Mindanao,...
JEDDAH: Adults are often the last ones to know when a child is bullied at school. However, parents or school authorities should step in if any child is being beaten, threatened or taunted by another pupil. A high school boy was beaten up and harassed...
RIYADH: Six winners — five authors and a researcher from scientific and educational institutions — have been announced as winners in the King Abdul Aziz Book Award this year.The committee for the King Abdulaziz Book Award said the works of the winner...
RIYADH: The Kingdom now has 67 female lawyers out of 3,400 in the country, according to a report released by the Justice Ministry.The report said that 65 male lawyers were registered at the beginning of the Islamic year on Oct. 14, and four female la...
JEDDAH: Jeddah police are investigating the theft and signature forgery of six checks from the Jeddah municipality headquarters.The Anti-Forgery Department was assigned to locate all information related to the check forgery cases. Local media estimat...

Events & Exhibitions

Stay Connected