India: A View from the South, and Further North

India: A View from the South, and Further North

The Subcontinent

Brighter Green Associate Sangamithra Iyer writes from India, where she is investigating the intensification of the livestock sector (as well as visiting family) this summer. She’ll be uploading more blogs and photos in the next week or so, so come back for those. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of what she’s been seeing, experiencing and reading. “Traveling in South India [the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu] still has been very veg-oriented,” Sangu writes, “with vegetarian restaurants for eating (on banana leaves) and makeshift rest stops for coconut water—just a guy and a machete and coconuts.” However, she’s seen evidence of the shift toward greater consumption of meat and dairy that’s taking place in much of India. “We are finding Suguna Chicken stands (basically small live markets) in all the small towns and cities we are driving through.” Suguna, which began as a small business 25 years ago, is now a multi-million dollar hatchery and feed enterprise with 15,000 contract chicken “growers” producing eight million birds a week across India.

Sangu flew north to Delhi and right from the airport went to a Nutrich “hygienic chicken” slaughterhouse and processing plant. “The live bird transport, stunning and de-feathering had already happened when we got there,” she writes, “but we saw the whole place and the processing area,” including about 100 workers, most of whom that work directly from the birds come from Nepal. Local women do much of the cutting of the fat. “This facility,” Sangu continues, “is a contrast to the big live poultry market in Delhi where most restaurants and smaller live market shops get their birds. It supposedly has cleaner conditions. There’s a water treatment facility, which we saw too.”

Another interesting facet of the poultry business—and the contest between modern slaughter plants and more traditional live poultry markets—is religion. Sangu writes: “One is run by Hindus and the other by Muslims.” She also visited a feed mill for corn and soy. The crops are grown in the south as well as the northern states of Bihar and Rajasthan. Up next on her itinerary: a piggery (the owner converted it from a poultry facility but now wants to sell this one, too), a dairy and a broiler chicken plant.

Finally, here’s some of what Sangu’s been reading in one of India’s main national newspapers: an article about a large project to support the rearing of male buffalo for meat exports (“rescuing” them from the cities and providing livelihoods to some of India’s many poor people). Another describes a contingency plan for India to import skim milk powder. The summer heat, the story explains, has led to low production and yields, and other countries have export subsides.

Access to the production and processing facilities described here was generously facilitated by Nitin Goel of the Humane Society International (HSI), who is working on factory farming issues related to chickens in India. To learn more about HSI’s work in India, click here. More from Sangu’s research in Delhi and environs coming soon.

Map credit: Nations Online