Cows do not always make the best hamburgers in India

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th September 2012

The 19th century American writer Mark Twain famously said sacred cows make the best hamburgers. Of course, he was speaking figuratively about challenges to conventional beliefs in America, and not about India.

Yet, how the wheel has turned. A century later, McDonald’s, the fast food purveyors of the  iconic beef-based Big Mac hamburger,  will be opening the first vegetarian-only McDonald’s restaurant, anywhere in the world, in India in 2013.

McDonald’s has adapted menus to local tastes in numerous countries. This means in India there can be no beef in hamburgers. Some 80 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population consider cows to be sacred. Consumption of their meat is prohibited by religious stricture.

The first vegetarian outlet will open in mid 2013 in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in northern India where religious authorities forbid the consumption of meat near the Golden Temple shrine.

After Amritsar, McDonald’s is planning to open a vegetarian outlet near the Vaishno Devi cave shrine in northwestern  Indian Kashmir. This is another important Hindu pilgrimage site attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

McDonald’s in India has a menu that segregates vegetarian and meat products.  According to McDonald’s India web pages, distinctive staff attire and colour schemes are used to maintain segregation throughout the supply chain. Many products, such as mayonnaise used in all stores,  are always 100 percent vegetarian.

McDonald’s McAloo Tikki burger, which uses a spiced potato base, is a major seller. The chicken-only meat based Maharaja Mac is also very popular.

Mcdonald’s has around 270 restaurants throughout India out of its 33,000 stores worldwide. Of these, 46 are in the capital city Delhi.

The latest vegetarian move is a step in a reported plan for major expansion by McDonald’s in India.