Religion and Food Choice in Asia: Exploring the Impact of Religious Practices on Demand

The Indian subcontinent is home to a variety of religious communities, each of which is distinguished by its own particular food taboos, particularly when it comes to meat. For instance, Christians will eat almost any type of meat or fish, while Muslims will consume most meats, including beef, but avoid pork. Despite this, academic studies have tended to underestimate the impact of religious behavior on food systems in developing economies. Ethiopia is an ideal country to explore the influence of religious practices on demand, given its diverse Christian, Islamic and traditional faiths.

Livestock products are consumed in very small amounts in Ethiopia, even by African standards - a phenomenon that is often attributed to supply and marketing issues combined with low incomes. However, this paper seeks to challenge this dominant narrative and instead focus on the impact of religion. We will show how the fasting practices of Orthodox Christians - the largest religious group - affects decisions about milk intake and the channels through which consumed milk is obtained. Using national data from standard of living measurement studies, we found that Orthodox fasting has a negative effect on milk consumption and reduces the proportion of self-produced milk in Orthodox households - an effect that we quantify in this paper.

In addition, we observed the indirect effects of Orthodox fasting on other religious groups in the dominant Orthodox localities. Our findings improve our understanding of the broader social implications of religiously inspired consumption rituals and highlight the challenges that result from religion-induced demand cycles when designing policies to develop the livestock sector. China is renowned for its rich tradition and gastronomic culture, due in part to its many inhabitants and different religions such as Taoism, Buddhism and Islam. This study examines the association between N and P fingerprints of foods and cultural and religious aspects of diet.

While food culture is not entirely dictated by religious dictates, preferences for animal-based foods and food waste are often closely linked to cultural and religious considerations. Food and dietary customs are highly important within Asian religions due to their historical and devotional importance within religious doctrine and sacred beliefs. The findings highlight the impact of individual choice on N and P food footprints, as well as the importance of encouraging followers of a religion to adhere to its food culture. The objective of this study is to explain the impact of food consumption patterns among these religions on N and P footprints in India.

This knowledge can also be used in efforts to achieve specific objectives set by the United Nations to reduce food waste, reduce marine pollution caused by land-based activities and achieve food security as part of its sustainable development goals (SDGs).Structural supply problems, underdeveloped local markets, low income levels and a lack of consumer awareness regarding the nutritional benefits of animal foods (ASF) have been put forward as explanations for this stagnation. To effectively manage N and P throughout the food supply chain, it is necessary to evaluate the national food footprint based on food production and consumption. Behavioral factors that affect the N and P footprints of the food a person consumes include choosing to consume animal or plant-based food products, eating a balanced diet, wasting food, and being picky about what they eat. The consumption of animal-based foods such as red meat, eggs and dairy products accounted for nearly 72% of the global phosphorus footprint. Cultural and religious patterns of food consumption are among the most prominent drivers of global environmental sustainability.

Therefore, evaluating the effects of food production and consumption by diverse religious communities on the loss of N and P is an important step towards efficient and effective management of N and P.

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