Eating beef in India

Note: Being a Hindu I have never eaten beef and neither do I intend to. I do not endorse the killing of cows and I am for complete ban on cow slaughter throughout India. This post is for information only.

Some foreign tourists from the USA and Europe love their beef so much that some of them start having withdrawal symptoms if they don’t eat beef for a period of time. Now if you are one of those people who are craving for a ham burger or beefsteak while on your trip to India, you’re out of luck. Most places in India will not have beef on their menu. In fact, you are not going to find any beef in any fast food chain restaurants including western ones such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or Domino’s. You won’t find the Big Mac burger in an Indian McDonald’s restaurants rather you’ll have a ‘Maharaja Mac’ which will be the same size as their Big Mac counterpart but will have chicken burgers in it.

eating beef in India
Mughali Beef curry in Agra, India. Photo by VasenkaPhotography

If you are craving for beef during your stay in India then a good place to go is Goa. About 27% of the population of Goa are Christians and many restaurants run by Christians will include beef (also pork) on their menu. In fact, many restaurants at the beach especially in the tourist areas will serve beef burgers. Although, Hindus of Goa won’t eat beef there is little taboo about eating beef in Goa.

In Delhi, the capital of India, most Hindus may not know this but many foreign owned restaurants and Muslim-dominated areas of Nizamuddin area of New Delhi or Jama Masjid (Jama Mosque) of Old Delhi will serve beef. The menu may not have explicit labeling of cow meat but many regulars will know about it. So you will need to enquire in these restaurants if they serve beef or not. Many Hindus may not have a clue that they have mistakenly eaten beef being sold as mutton (lamb) in some of these restaurants. You can identify Muslim restaurants by the signs at the entrance. They will have an Urdu sign along with Hindi and English. In addition, devout Muslims wearing skull caps, so you might find people at the till or the waiters wearing them. Although slaughtering of cows is illegal in Delhi, it is still available in Muslims areas of Delhi.

beef market in kerala
Beef market in kerala. Photo by Nicolas Mirguet

However, beef is legally available in Christian dominated areas of Kerala, Tribal Jharkhand (former South Bihar), Muslim populated areas of West Bengal and the whole of Buddhist/Christian North-East India. Calcutta (now Kolkata) has a large illegal Muslim Bangladeshi population operating beef markets that cater for the numerous restaurants and dhabas there.

The state of Uttar Pradesh stands as one state that has large number of cow slaughterhouses for meat export. Beef can be found in Muslim areas of Rampur, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Aligarh, Agra (where the Taj Mahal is). Hyderabad is another place where you can get beef. It said that that Hyderabad is the best place to have beef biryani and kebabs. In fact, the Hindu “dalits” of Hyderabad have been eating beef in India for centuries.

Interestingly, the people in the state capital of Kashmir, Srinagar the only Muslim dominated state of India refrains from consuming beef keeping the Kashmiri tradition of religious and cultural harmony alive (known as Kashmiriyat or Kashmiri Nationalism). However there is no such taboo in the Kashmiri countryside. Recently some kind of disruption has been brewing up. Some Muslims of Kashmir have taken up eating beef just to piss the Hindus off.

You need to remember that cow meat are often replaced by cheaper bull or buffalo meat and sold as beef. You will have to confirm this with the restaurant. If people of Europe can be cheated into eating “horse meat” rather than beef, this can easily happen in India too.

Why beef cannot be found on the Indian menu

  • Hindus consider the cow as the symbol of life (and cows not worshipped)
  • Cow meat is not feely available in India
  • Any hint of cow slaughter can trigger riots
  • There is no big demand for beef
  • There are no organized slaughter houses for cows
  • Most Indian states have banned cow slaughter
  • Slaughter of cows is a sensitive issue
  • India has a civilian anti-cow slaughter and cow enforcement team

There are some (so-called) intellectuals and historians who claim that Hindus used to eat beef in ancient (referred to as Vedic) times. Funny thing is that many of these English speaking intellectuals don’t even speak a word of Sanskrit and they come to the conclusion that Hindus once used to eat beef. Fact is that mainstream Hindus never eat beef. Anyway even if they did in ancient times it doesn’t mean Hindus have to eat beef now. Times change and religions evolve and we don’t eat beef in this day and age.

You can learn more about Hinduism in my book
Hinduism Made Easy: Hindu Religion, Philosophy and Concepts

However, you still can find beef in some upscale restaurants, hotels and bars with a significant foreign customers and some non-Hindu owned restaurants. Despite non-availability of beef, India happens to be the world’s third largest beef exporter after Brazil and Australia. At the moment, there are restrictions on eating beef in many Indian states. The best option is to refrain from eating beef in India completely.

Just a few days back, a man was murdered in his own house because the villagers thought that he had beef in his fridge. The disgusting paid Indian media is currently trying to whip up this story. Most of the Indian channels are run by supporters of the opposition parties hence they will do everything to create tension and defame the current ruling party. Anyway, whatever the case maybe, people of India takes the killing of cows very seriously.

Finally, I strongly suggest you DO NOT attempt to eat beef in India. We love our cows and in addition there are 24 out of 29 states in India that have some kind of regulations prohibiting cow slaughter and sale of beef.

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