India's changing appetite throws up meaty issues

Published Feb 04, 2013 08:07am

An employee working at a poultry farm in Koregaon Mul village, some 30 kilometres from the western Indian city of Pune.–Photo by AFP

MUMBAI: With German sausages, French duck breasts 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 neighbourhood 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.

"Things like Thanksgiving, which was never celebrated over here in Mumbai, is now being celebrated every year. The new generations are cool with eating anything," he said.

Customers stand outside the Venky's fast food outlet in Pune.–Photo by AFP

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 per cent 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 Advisors.

"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.

A cook prepares to grill a chicken at a restaurant in Mumbai.–Photo by AFP

Despite coming from a "hardcore veg" Hindu community, bartender 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.

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 realise it is not a vegetarian country," said food security analyst Sangita Sharma.

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Comments (2) (Closed)


Chen
Feb 05, 2013 05:39am
if you know what I mean
Tony
Feb 06, 2013 12:42am
When the developed world is figuring out the importance of Vegetarian diet and the Indian Spices, the Indians are aping the Western Culture without giving thought to their own rich culture in food and spices. The Westerners are looking for alternative medicines borrowed from Indian scriptures and Indians are indulging themselves into meat, alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes. Aping western traditions without fully understanding the culture is like jumping into water without knowing how to swim..