The meat of the matter

Regional differences and meat-eating in India

July 10, 2014 03:00 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:03 pm IST

Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

This is a blog post from

We’ve put out some interesting stuff on India’s consumption habits over the last few days based on new National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data. First, we did a story on the >turnaround in India’s Public Distribution System . Then we looked at >how class determines what we eat and drink . And finally, we did >a really cool visualisation of what consumption looks like if you are rich or poor.

There are two parts of food habits that we find people always have a lot of interest in: regional differences, and meat-eating. We’ve decided to put the two together here to give you an idea how meat preferences change by state. All the visualisation for this post has been done by Vivekanandan M.

The NSSO uses a recall period of seven days for meat as against 30 days for milk and 365 days for items like wheat and rice. What this means is that the respondent is asked whether he or she consumed a particular meat in the last even days, what quantity of it, and at what price. So it’s conceivable that meat consumption is underestimated by the NSSO. I haven’t eaten meat in the last week, for example, but I probably will this weekend.

>The Hindu-CNN IBN State of The Nation survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in 2006 had found that 60% of Indians are non-vegetarians, and it is only among upper castes – Brahmins in particular – that vegetarianism dominates.

That disclaimer out of the way, the proportion of Indians who’d eaten meat in the week preceding the survey was quite low; just 26.5% of households in rural India and 21% in urban India reported consuming fish in the preceding week, and fish is India’s favourite meat (I use the term meat loosely to mean all “animal protein”). Chicken comes a close second, and mutton and beef a distant third and fourth.

So how do things pan out across the country? The data here is for monthly per capita consumption - the amount consumed by a person in a month.

Consumption (per capita per month) of Meat in India

< 50 g
50 to 100 g
100 to 200 g
200 to 500 g
500 to 1,000 g
> 1,000 g

State / UT's Favourite Meat


The coastal regions of course are the biggest fish eaters, but Kerala and Tripura come out on top followed by Goa and West Bengal. Chicken’s big in both the north and south. Beef is largely a Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala and West Bengal favourite, while mutton has Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka joining Jammu & Kashmir. India’s centre and north-west are not big meat-eaters at all.

As countries get richer, they tend to begin eating more meats. Across classes in India too, meat consumption rises with income. But given cultural norms surrounding meat-eating in some societies, will these maps change significantly over time? Writing for The Hindu in 2006, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar of CSDS did not seem to think that was happening. “[T]here is no broad correspondence between age and vegetarianism,” they wrote. “The findings show that vegetarianism is a function of inherited cultural practice rather than individual belief.”

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