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Not all beef is banned in India. Here's what you need to know

Ishan Kukreti | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 7:03 IST

The Hindu Sena's complaint about beef being served in Kerala House on 28 October, and the subsequent raid by Delhi Police has raised many questions about tolerance, the federal structure of the country and the grey area that the legality of beef consumption seems to have become.

While the issue has seen a number of violent clashes over beef consumption and cow slaughter, as well as stringent clampdowns and increasing dissent, everyone seems to have forgotten one basic aspect of the controversy. What is this beef? Why is it that some meat seems to be frowned upon where other meat is accepted?

Cow vs Buffalo

While meat from both the animals is referred to as beef in India, there is one all-encompassing difference between the two. In technical terms, Beef is the meat from cow (Species: Bos taurus) while the meat from buffalo (Species: Bubalus bubalis) is called Buff.

A un-castrated male member of the sacred Bos taurus species is called Bull while a castrated male of the species is called an Ox.

Many dishes, including Kerala House's beef fry actually makes use of buffalo meat. This is because the buffalo is not a sacred animal, and its meat can be consumed without attracting any legal, or religious ire.

Largest exporter of beef

According to projections from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), India is the largest exporter of beef. The country leapfrogged Brazil to attain the top position with 2.4 million tons projected export in 2015.

However, the same "beef-buff" dichotomy mars the statics.

India's meat exports include large quantities of buffalo meat - classified as beef by the USDA. It's popularity rests on the fact that it is a chewier and cheaper alternative to beef.

While the cow is a sacred animal and its slaughter can have major repercussions, the fact that buffalo doesn't fall in the same ambit of sanctity, is the reason why Kerala House will resume serving it's delicious "beef fry" from Wednesday.

First published: 28 October 2015, 2:21 IST