The Double Lives of Beef-Eating South Asians

Many who grew up steering clear of the red meat are now opting in, sometimes secretly.

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Kerala style beef and tapioca on a banana leaf in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India, on May 30, 2022 (Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ayesha Le Breton


April 2, 2024


9 min

Kalyan Kumar Kameshwara was 17 when he first tried beef. Now 34, he remembers sneaking out with a friend to a restaurant that served beef. “It was a beef biryani, and it was one of the best dishes I have ever had,” he recalled. When she found out, Kameshwara’s mom was furious and insisted he give up beef. Kameshwara, who now lives in London, didn’t comply.

In 2021, Pew found that 81% of Indians limit meat in their diets. The statistic checks out since many of India’s religions have dietary restrictions. Muslims eat halal and avoid pork, while Jains abstain from meat and root vegetables to prevent harm to animals. Hindus, meanwhile, consider cows to be sacred. But South Asians, including Kameshwara, are increasingly deciding their own dietary boundaries. When we asked our followers if they grew up abstaining from beef but now eat the meat, we got over 100 responses. So what’s driving the phenomenon?

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