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Kerala, which leads the country in several indicators including literacy, is also the highest consumer of meat with a daily requirement of over 5,000 tonnes, according to the state animal husbandry department.

Animal husbandry director R Vijayakumar does not find the figure of 5,034.96 tonnes a day surprising as 80 percent of the state's residents are non-vegetarians.

"The sad part is that the domestic production of meat (beef, mutton and chicken) is just around 264.31 tonnes," Vijaykumar said, adding, "The rest comes from nearby states."

The department has collected this data for a national meeting in Gujarat later this month to review the production of meat and allied products.

The survey finds chicken to be the most preferred. In fact, from a mere six percent share in 1990, it now accounts for 45 per cent of the meat consumed in Kerala.

"The eating profile of our people has undergone a huge change," Vijayakumar said. "With a large number of IT professionals working in key centres, the fast food habit has picked up hugely. Hence meat is the most preferred item."

In fiscal 2009-10, Keralites spent a staggering Rs 2,844 crore on chicken, of which Rs 1,752 crore went to poultry farms outside the state.

"There is a golden opportunity here as there is immense potential to rear chicken, pig, goats and even rabbit," Vijaykumar said. "Now all the money is going to neighbouring states," Vijaykumar said. "We are going to give huge emphasis to this sector in our plans."

Kottayam, Thrissur and Malappuram lead the state's 14 districts in meat consumption. In fiscal 2009-10, a record 6.1 million cattle came into the state through various check posts; another 1.8 million are estimated to have entered unchecked.

Of the 33 million people in Kerala, according to Vijaykumar, Christians and Muslims together constitute around 47 per cent and most of the meat-eaters are from these communities.

"If people in our state take to animal husbandry seriously, it would only benefit them," Vijayakumar said.


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