Meat-eaters chicken out

THE CITY carnivores are clearly chicken. Even though there?s not the slightest evidence that the bird flu virus might have reached Indore, meat eaters here have given the fork down to poultry.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2006 00:13 IST
Saeed Khan

THE CITY carnivores are clearly chicken. Even though there’s not the slightest evidence that the bird flu virus might have reached Indore, meat eaters here have given the fork down to poultry.

White meat consumption has registered an across the board decline with upmarket hotels, standalone restaurants and roadside eateries all registering a sharp decline in sales since yesterday.

It’s the same story at meat-eating households. Housewives, even those desperate for bargain buys, are giving a wide berth to poultry meat, even though falling demands have led to chicken prices dropping by Rs 10 per kg since Friday.

The panic-induced boycott has left its mark on poultry farmers and retailers as well as restaurateurs. However, it is eateries, which list non-vegetarian fare as their USP, that have been hit particularly hard by the bird flu scare.

“We managed to sell only about 50 chickens worth of meat yesterday, as against the daily average of 200-plus birds,”
revealed Ghulam Husn, owner of Madni Hotel at Sarwate Bus Stand. “Even hardcore chicken lovers opted for mutton dishes today.

Due to the unexpectedly high demand red meat soon ran out and we were forced to turn away many customers,” he added.
Nafees, a standalone eatery at Palasia renowned for its non-vegetarian fare, faced a similar fate.

“Chicken sale has dropped to ten per cent of what it was before news of bird flu was splashed in the papers,” rues Manager Raees Ahmed. His restaurant, however, didn’t face much loss in unsold food as “our orders are based directly on demand and we had cut down demand and have no storage facilities”.

Mindful of the panic generated by bird flu, a few top-notch hotels like Fortune Landmark have stopped selling chicken altogether. “Since Friday we stopped serving white meat dishes at our restaurants except at private parties and that, too, if the organisers demand it,” revealed Assistant F and B Manager Amit Kumar Jatav.

Other hotels are likely to follow suit if a definitive disclaimer about the virus’ presence in poultry animals is not forthcoming soon. A possibility that has the 160-odd poultry farmers worried.

However, they are even more peeved at what they say is the public’s susceptibility to ‘media sensationalism’. Of the scores of samples sent to the lab in Bhopal not one had tested positive, points out poultry farm owner Ajay Katyal. “Instead of highlighting this the media chose to go to town over a few birds that died in transit”.

“Even if they died what does it prove? Do poultry animals die only of bird flu,” he demands rhetorically. Chickens are very sensitive and average mortality rate of 4-5 per even at controlled conditions in poultry farms, he adds.

White meat retailers, too, are tearing their hair in despair at the ‘irrational attitude’ of City residents. “Although the district administration has repeatedly stressed that no trace of bird flu has been found people refuse to believe this. We have repeatedly asserted that poultry animals sold in Indore come mostly from neighbouring areas.

Import of birds was stopped nearly 20 days ago when reports reached us of a disease outbreak in Navapur, Maharashtra, but all this has been to no avail,” informed Yusuf Bhai, President Fruit Market Association.

Vital stats
Indore consumes 20,000 chickens and three lakh eggs everyday. A kilo of broiler meat was selling for Rs 42 on Friday. By Monday the price dropped to Rs 30.

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 00:13 IST