Meat production is largely an unorganized yet vital segment of Indian agriculture. Traditional production systems and disorderly practices have flawed the image of the Indian meat industry. The unregulated meat markets, tropical climate, inadequate slaughterhouse hygiene measures and the lack of surveillance of meat-borne diseases enhances the risk of meat-borne diseases and occupational hazards. Most consumers purchase meat from traditional meat shops, where butchers slaughter limited animals for sale of meat throughout the day.

According to research, there are about 8000 registered and more than 20,000 unregistered slaughterhouses in the country and most of them are devoid of basic amenities like light, ventilation; and the slaughtering and carcass-dressing processes are performed in open areas in highly unhygienic conditions following which the meat is sold with little or no veterinary inspection. The fresh meat is sold in insanitary retail outlets exposing meat to dust leading to contamination and there are chances that raw meat may harbor several pathogenic microbes making the meat a risk for human health.

It is therefore necessary to establish modern slaughter-houses to bring improvements in meat-handling practices, recovery and proper utilization of by-products, waste treatments for pollution control to reorganize and strengthen the meat industry on scientific line to provide wholesome and safe meat to the domestic consumer as well as to play a substantial role in international meat trade/market.

India has a colossal livestock population and efficient utilization of these resources including production and utilization of livestock products is important to earn increased returns and sustain livestock production activities. Over the course of almost five decades, the country has witnessed the green, white, yellow and blue revolutions. It’s time to realize one more revolution – the red revolution in the form of meat production.

Abundant, yet untapped

While India has an abundant supply of meat, the meat processing industry is still emerging. Meat processing covers a spectrum of products from sub-sectors comprising animal husbandry and poultry farms, to bulk frozen meat, chilled and deli meat, packaged meat, and ready-to-eat processed meat products. In the present scenario, there is a large scope for meat processing in poultry as well as in red meat. In fact, the poultry industry has made considerable progress by developing and marketing value-added products.

Currently, the livestock sector alone contributes nearly 25.6% of the value of output at current prices of the total value of output in agriculture, fishing and forestry sectors. As per the latest livestock census, the overall contribution of this sector in total GDP is nearly 4.11% at current prices.

The meat industry is slowly yet steadily catching pace on the global front also as India exports both frozen and fresh chilled meat to more than 60 countries of the world. The major item of export includes de-boned and de-glanced frozen buffalo meat, which accounts for 97% of the total meat export. The major market for Indian buffalo meat is Malaysia and Egypt and for sheep and goat meat are UAE, Iran, and Jordan. India also exports a small quantity of processed meat to Thailand, Yemen, and Japan and poultry products to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

Way forward

Production of good quality animals for slaughter is essential for the production of good quality meat. Hence, farmers’ cooperative can play a major role in the field of production and marketing of quality animals, extension education and encouragement of backward integration/contract farming. Maintain food safety at all stages of production, processing, packing, storage and marketing of meat and meat products, and adherence to standards which are prescribed by the importing countries.

Priorities must be given to address the myths prevalent among the public regarding meat consumption and diseases with proper extension programs. Meat processing and value addition are key to the prosperity of the meat industry. The awareness regarding the processed meats and the convenience to the consumers and households should be improved.

In general, meat sold in India is in unpacked form. Meat is packed only in certain organized meat factories. For sanitary and secure delivery of the meat and various value-added meat products through the various stages of processing, storage, transport, distribution and marketing, the packaging is of utmost importance.

In recent years, the demand for processed meat products from hotels, fast food restaurant chains, and urban consumers is on an upward spiral in India. This has led to increased frozen/chilled meat delivery startups that essentially deliver fresh meat within 2-3 hours and it has the added benefit of properly cleaned and cut portions with guaranteed safety and hygiene. Wet markets typically do not deliver to your doorstep nor is it cleaned and cut to right portions for cooking.

From a retail standpoint too, there has been a marked increase in the willingness of consumers to try frozen products and they have accepted it as a healthy and quick option for a snack. Over 65 percent of the population in India is below the age group of 35 years and a majority of them are now exposed to the global media and malls, which is causing the demand for food hygiene to grow by leaps and bounds. With supermarkets and shopping malls spreading to Tier II and III towns, there will be greater support for the growth in the retailing of chilled/ frozen meat products. Consumers are experimenting more and more today and they are ready to spend on worthy and differentiated products, which stand apart in taste and experience.