India has a reputation as a vegetarian nation, and Indians certainly consume far less meat than the global average. But the view of India as a predominantly vegetarian nation may not be quite accurate.
India, whose population is predicted to overtake China’s, is rapidly changing from an agricultural society to an industrial economy with a surging urban population. This is driving the fastest-growing poultry market in the world, as cultural norms change and eating meat becomes a status symbol.
Total Vegetarianism Is Rare
Vegetarianism in India has been gradually become less strict over the past 30 years. Only about three in ten Indians now claim to be vegetarian, and a 2016 national survey found that more than half of people aged between 15 and 34 eat meat.
A recent National Family Health Survey found that only 30 percent of women and 22 percent of men describe themselves as a vegetarian. Other studies have similarly found that a relatively small minority practice vegetarianism.
Even these numbers may well be underestimates. Indians are said to under-report their meat consumption due to religious and cultural stigmas associated with it.
Tastes like Chicken
Poultry is India’s most popular type of meat, and India is projected to be one of the world’s largest growth markets for poultry consumption.
The rise in meat consumption is predominantly driven by urban India, and the highest percentages of non-vegetarians come from southern states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.
Another reason may be that chicken can be considered an universally acceptable meat, given the religious taboos associated with beef among Hindus and pork among Muslims. Although 80 percent of Indians are Hindus, India is home to several other major religions and sub-faiths, each with its own strictures about food and eating. Vegetarianism is less common among Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Bahais, Parsis, and Jews who collectively make up 15 percent of India’s population.
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