By: Alifiya Khan
Even as the government in Maharashtra has banned the slaughter of all cattle (except water buffaloes) 40 years after implementing a similar law which banned the slaughter of cows, restaurateurs are in a fix as they say the ban will go on to slaughter their business. Irked with the decision that will not only affect traders but also violate people’s food choices, restaurateurs said they had to now rethink the menus.
“With a huge expat and student population in the city, besides the local community, beef dishes are extremely popular here. At the restaurant, we buy 180 kgs of beef a month with one kg serving five portions. We have a demarcated section in our kitchen where beef dishes are prepared. Just this morning, I was speaking to our chefs trying to understand what to do next. Since we can’t use inferior quality beef and if that is the only one available in the market, we will have to stop beef items. I am thinking of importing ham from abroad but it won’t be the same. Besides taste, people eat beef for the lean protein it provides,” said Imrun Sethi, owner of Tertulia Restaurant.
While some restaurant owners like Shapoor Irani of Burger King in Camp said though buffalo meat was used in their beef burgers, the ban was likely to drive prices even higher. “Owing to shortage in beef, the market price is already quite high. I buy beef from Shivaji Market where at present I get it at Rs 190 per kilo because I buy wholesale. I am told by my trader that this price could shoot up to Rs 220 in the next couple of days and if that happens, I will have to increase the price of burger. Beef is supposed to be a poor man’s meat and even today I have a tough time explaining to customers why shortage has made price of beef burger more expensive than the chicken one.”
At The Ship, owner Adarsh Hegde said beef items had already been taken off the menu about a month ago, following the issues in supply lately.
However, most restaurateurs expressed inability over understanding what the ban implied. “Frankly, we are confused if merely slaughtering is illegal or getting cuts and selling is also illegal. I read that getting buffalo meat and selling under the term tenderloin is legal but I fail to understand how to ascertain if the meat has come from a buffalo or not? I am waiting for a detailed circular from the government to restaurant owners. This ban has, however, resulted in a lot of headache for us. Our phones haven’t stopped ringing as people keep asking if we still sell beef,” said Kabir Ahuja, co-owner of Arthurs Theme in Koregaon Park.
Mohammed Badakhandi,owner of Radio Hotel in Camp where 50 per cent of food items are beef based, said until now he had been purchasing bull meat, but now only meat of water buffalo will be available. It certainly will affect the quality and taste of the dishes.
Meanwhile, Abhijit Jagtap, marketing manager at Olive Bistro, explained that while a lot of buzz was created around the ban, people needed to understand that one variety of beef that will be available in Maharashtra will be the inferior quality carabeef meat from water buffaloes. “Actually, cow meat was banned long back and most of the restaurants were anyway using carabeef, which is harder than the other beef varieties. Though some restaurants like ours get our beef from Kolkata where it is still legal. I don’t know if getting it here and selling will now be illegal. If that happens it’s sad and we will have to find a way to treat the carabeef. But yes, it won’t be the same,” said Jagtap.
To celebrate it while it was still available, the restaurant initiated “Where’s The Beef” steak festival on March 8. The festival has, however, been put on hold as they await a government notification on the ban, which is likely to reach restauranteurs by Monday evening.
In Pune, around 400 animals were slaughtered for beef on a daily basis said Pune-based Arif Chowdhury, an office-bearer of the All India Jamiatul Quresh, an organisation of beef traders, adding that each animal gave about 150 kg meat. “We tried to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday but it wasn’t possible. Due to holidays owing to Holi we had been silent but from Monday, you will see this issue hotting up,” he said.