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039: Indian Food Corporations make Retirement home for buffalos (Day 8 Part 2)

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

The owner of the Parsi Dairy Farm makes a retirement home for his buffalos, complete with a large water body and an ample supply of hay. A mechanical engineer from Kozhikode, Kerala leads India’s “White Revolution” in Anand, Gujarat. Milk cream rattling in iced cans across a three-day train journey turns slightly rancid and yellow and forever changes India’s perception of “real” commercially available butter. The polka dotted dress wearing Amul girl ousts the stripe wearing Polson’s butter girl, and becomes an on point spokesperson for India’s cultural-political scenario through clever advertising.

The poultry revolution in India, driven by Padma Shri Banda Vasudev Rao, replaces mutton curry with chicken curry as the go-to Sunday family meal for many Indians. Pink and green ‘Aarey Energee’ drinks loaded with sugar became available in milk booths across Mumbai’s footpaths. India’s oldest running company (the Wadia Group est. 1736) partners with the government of Andhra Pradesh, to make ‘milk bikis’ fortified with calcium, iron, iodine and vitamins for poor school children.

The international ABCD quartet (Archer-Daniel-Midlands, Bunge, Cargill, Louis-Dreyfus), along with botched government policies pushes India from an edible-oil exporting nation, to one that currently imports 70% of our annual requirement. Unilever adds an ‘L’ in the Dutch ‘Dada’ to give India - “Dalda” - the preferred and cheaper ‘vegetarian’ shortening, loaded with palm oil imported from the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

On Day 8 of the Food and Politics workshop, Dr. Kurush Dalal held us enthralled with his anecdotes as we navigated the terrain of food corporations in India through the lenses of edible oils (mustard, coconut, black sesame, sunflower, peanut and safflower), vanaspati, milk, butter, cheese, biscuits, chicken and eggs. The session ended on an inspiring note with the reminder that not all corporations in India are ‘evil’ and that many maintain high standards of integrity and ethics.

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