The Indian subcontinent is home to a variety of religious communities, each of which is distinguished by its own food taboos, particularly when it comes to meat. For instance, Christians generally eat 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 influence of religious behavior on food systems in developing economies. Ethiopia is an ideal country to explore the impact of religious practices on demand. Livestock products are rarely included in Ethiopian diets, even by African standards.
This is usually attributed to supply and marketing issues and low incomes. However, this paper seeks to challenge this narrative and emphasize the role of religion. We will look at how fasting practices among Orthodox Christians - the largest religious group - affect milk consumption and the channels through which 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. We also observed the indirect effects of Orthodox fasting on other religious groups in Orthodox-dominated localities.
Our findings shed light on the broader social implications of religiously-inspired consumption rituals and the difficulties posed by religion-induced demand cycles when designing policies for the development of the livestock sector. The foods chosen for consumption by different ethnic groups and their attitudes towards diet and eating habits are closely related to religion. Foods are seen as medicinal and are classified according to their medicinal properties. Robinson and Pozzi note that cultural and religious values and practices have hindered the replacement of high-value foods such as African swine fever with starchy staple foods in African food baskets. Muslim cuisine in South Asia can vary from family to family, particularly when it is influenced by religion or where a family currently lives. Studies have been conducted into the psychological, social, religious and ethical factors that influence consumers' intention to purchase and consume pre-cooked foods. The staple foods of these diverse ethnic groups are closely linked to their environment and history.
More research is needed to assess the social impact of religion on food systems by studying other religious practices and contexts. Fats and oils are often used in cooking, while dried and preserved foods are a feature of Chinese cuisine. Food and dietary customs are highly important in Asian religions due to their historical and devotional significance in religious doctrine and sacred beliefs. In contrast, east of East India, rice is the staple food and whole grains are usually boiled or steamed without being ground into flour. Lamb is the most popular meat, with kebab - derived from Turkish cuisine - being a representative dish.
To gain an understanding of traditional dietary cultures in Asia, let's imagine a map of Asian staple foods as they were in the 15th century. Eating is closely linked to religious lifestyle, with dietary choices often practiced as a way to maintain a close relationship with faith. Therefore, it is clear that religion has a significant impact on food choices in Asia.