Is India an egg-eating country?

Ultimately, what’s key is nutrition.  

With Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan deciding against giving eggs to children in anganwadis as part of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Madhya Pradesh joins a host of northern and western states that do not give eggs in Government programmes.

A look at the data shows that while State government decisions might reflect regional food preferences on average, it excludes some classes and communities.

So, while India's northern and western states are not as likely to eat eggs as their southern and eastern neighbours, and as a result might decide not to distribute eggs in schools, this could mean that their most marginalised communities are being deprived of an important source of nourishment.

The southern and eastern states give eggs to children in anganwadis and schools as part of the ICDS and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, according to data compiled by researcher Swati Narayan who is associated with the Right To Food campaign. Tamil Nadu leads the pack in the noon meal scheme, giving five eggs per week to schoolchildren.

Some states like Karnataka and Rajasthan supplement the noon meal with healthy vegetarian extras, such as milk and fruit.

The food priorities of State governments mirror, to some extent, the dietary preferences of the population of these states, with southern and north-eastern states more likely to have egg-eating families, according to data from the National Sample Survey Organisation that asked what a family had eaten during the preceding week.

It’s possible, however, that these are underestimates, either because a reference period of a week is too short, or because of social taboos, or other reasons. A 2006 Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) poll had found that 69 per cent of Indians are non-vegetarians, and a further nine per cent are vegetarians who eat eggs.

While location matters most, there are also strong caste and class dimensions to meat and egg-eating. The CSDS poll found that vegetarianism was far more common among forward castes and Brahmins, while only 12 per cent of adivasis or eight per cent of Christians were vegetarian.

On average in India, class strongly determines the number of eggs consumed, NSSO data shows.

Ultimately, what’s key is nutrition. Eggs are an important source of protein; including them in a range of options available to children, particularly in communities where they are widely eaten, would seem important.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 9:33:55 AM |

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