By Dr. Kaushik Ramakrishnan*

The vast agroclimatic variances in India, allow for a diversity of species to be cultivated and consumed in India. But, singularly among other countries with a robust agro-economy, the consumption of animal derived products like milk, eggs, and meat is low in India.

Table 1: per capita consumption of dairy, egg and meat in India, China and USA, 2023, Kg/Capita

Country

Poultry

Beef

Milk

Sheep

Fish

Eggs (Nos.)

India

2.7

0.5

67

0.7

7.6

96

China

13.8

4

12.4

3.4

40.4

 

USA

50.9

25.3

88.9

0.3

22.9

 

Europe

32.1

10.3

43

1.7

24

 

Source: OECD, USDA, DAHD, Euromeatnews, Clal.it

This is due to cultural influences as well as a hangover of lack of adequate access to animal products during tough economic times following independence. The biggest change over the past decade has been the rapid increase in consumption of animal products due to changing socio-economic conditions.

Abattoirs are the first step in preparation of processed meat products. Abattoirs are a state subject and there are variations of regulations concerning animal slaughter and processing across the country. The state also owns and runs slaughterhouses to ensure a degree of safety and animal welfare. But this is not particularly feasible and for the most part, slaughter of poultry as well as small ruminants happens in-situ at the point of sale, often in unsanitary conditions. For increasing the consumption of meat products, efforts have to be made to increase the safety of animal slaughter and pre-empt any trends towards animal welfare as has been witnessed in the west.

Since a significant proportion of the population in India is purely vegetarian and most of the remaining consume meat occasionally, the per capita numbers do not do justice to the real situation of consumption patterns. A look into the total production and availability within the country throws up the relative importance of each meat category for identification of consumption patterns.

Table 2: Availability of meat (by type) in India, 2023, tons

 

Poultry

Sheep

Fish

Beef

Production

5000000

482520

16248000

4435000

Import

0

0

14131

0

Export

664753

9592

13700000

1472000

Availability

4335247

472928

2562131

2963000

Source: dahd.nic.in; National Action Plan for Egg & Poultry-2022 For Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022

Despite significant differences in production of each meat type, the popularity in consumption is different. This is based on cultural factors, lucrativeness of export markets and price of the meat. While each meat cannot be directly compared on price, due to the differences in flavor, preference, cuisine, region etc., the cost of protein can be compared in each source as a reference point.

Table 3: Comparison of cost of protein from different sources, India, 2023

Meat/grain

Protein (g/kg)

Price (INR/kg)

Cost of Protein in INR/g

Per kg protein INR

Beef

260

350

1.3

1346

Pork

240

340

1.4

1417

Chicken

270

200

0.7

741

Fish

220

110

0.5

500

Egg (20 nos = 1 kg)

130

100

0.8

769

Mung Dhal (split)

240

180

0.8

750

Green peas

85

50

0.6

588

Soya chunks

520

89

0.2

171

Paneer

160

750

4.7

4688

Toor Dhal

220

200

0.9

909

Source: Bigbasket, Pricemundi, Livemint

Chicken and fish are the lowest priced for the amount of protein provided. Contrary to global trends, beef is actually more expensive in India. Hence consumption is restricted. Each of these meat types require a different approach to processing starting with slaughter, storage and further processing for creation of consumer products.

Table 4: Popular cuts/matrices by meat type, 2023

 

Cuts

Poultry

Drumstick, supreme, breast, curry, biryani, wings, boneless, mince

Sheep

Chops, rump, thigh, prime, supreme, ribs, tenderloin

Fish/crustaceans

Fillet, mince, slice, whole

Beef

Loin, tenderloin, mince, flange, ribs, steak

Source: F1rst

Further processing of meat for creation of consumer products offers enormous value addition, but requires a robust supply chain since the brands available are all frozen/RTC products.

Table 5: key companies and brands in processed meat, India, 2023

Brand Name

Company Name

Yummiez

Godrej Group

Venky’s

Venky’s India Ltd

Meatzza

Darshan Foods Pvt Ltd

Sumeru

Innovative Foods Ltd

Suguna

Suguna Poultry Products Ltd

Al Kabeer

Al Kabeer Exports Pvt Ltd

Triveni Sealed In Freshness

Triveni Fisheries Pvt Ltd

Source: Passport, Euromonitor

For example, the cost of protein from fresh chicken is INR 741/kg, whereas the same amount of protein in a sausage can cost INR 5763. This cost is shared between processing, supply chain, marketing and margins. But this high cost influences the purchase of meat in processed form, where cheaper options are available for fresh meat. Consumers are still open to cooking fresh meat at home. This trend may change depending on the increasing popularity of frozen meat supplied by startups. D2C fresh meat market is growing rapidly with conservative estimates of INR 500 crore revenues for the top six companies in 2022.

Emerging Trends in India

In India, the processed meat market is expanding at a fast pace. There is a growing demand for ready-to-eat and convenience meat products. Consumers with busy lifestyle in urban areas want quick and easy food options, leading to an increase in packaged and prepared meat items. Moreover, health consciousness is on the rise. Consumers are looking for healthier meat options, like lean cuts and products free from artificial additives or preservatives. This shift towards healthier choices is influencing companies to introduce products that align with these preferences. Additionally, flavors are diversifying. While traditional Indian spices continue to dominate, there’s an influx of international flavors and preparations entering the market. This variety appeals to a broader consumer base, including younger generations and those open to experimenting with different tastes. Furthermore, transparency and traceability are becoming crucial. Consumers want to know where their meat comes from, how it’s processed, and its quality. This demand is pushing companies to be more transparent about sourcing, production methods, and ingredients. The Indian processed meat market is witnessing trends driven by convenience, health consciousness, flavor diversity, and consumer transparency demands.

Future perspectives

The time is right for increased consumption of meat in India, due to the rapid economic growth. Comparison of cost of meat points to meat still being a premium product and hence the increased affluence of the population is necessary for increased consumption.

Typical retail outlets in urban and peri-urban areas handle mostly poultry and not more than 5-7 sheep/goats per day and that too the busiest times happen to be the weekends. In this scenario, regulations either under BIS or under FSSAI can lay the ground for micro-abattoirs that could cater to a small geographic radius of 1-2 kms and equipped with humane, safe slaughter facilities along with freezers and cold-chain equipment. This will enable consumption of fresh meat products for home cooking.

The fresh meat D2C companies are also clocking fast growth rates and f1rst estimates that they may reach upto INR 2000 crore revenue by 2028. These will support any initiatives to bring about micro abattoirs for increasing consumption, due to the inbuilt safety standards.

For either of micro abattoirs and D2C companies to grow, a robust frozen supply chain either in current retail channels or in custom channels needs to be built. The investments for these are slowly trickling in.

Western matrices are more popular in the frozen RTC segment. Increased numbers of Indian products in this category would help to cater to the requirements of consumers for local known flavors and recipes.

About the author

*Dr. Kaushik Ramakrishnan is a Project Manager at F1rst, He has done his Masters in Biochemistry, PhD in Food Biotechnology with a focus on developing a process for purification of steviol glyco-sides. Kaushik is a Food and Beverage ingredient industry expert with over 12 years of market research and consulting experience. He has managed projects covering global market research for protein ingredients, savory, bakery intermediates, Emulsifiers, polyols, sweeteners, starches, preservatives, extracts, and many other functional ingredients. He can be contacted at kaushik@firstmr.com