The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recently granted official recognition to Mithun, a semi-domesticated bovine animal, as a consumable food source, effective from September 1, 2023. This significant development opens the doors for the promotion of Mithun consumption and commercial breeding in the Northeastern regions of India.
Mithuns have long been an integral part of the culinary traditions of various tribes residing in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram. However, the promotion of Mithun meat and milk had been hindered due to the lack of FSSAI’s acknowledgment of it as a food animal.
This recognition holds several key implications:
- Healthier, Nutritious Meat: Mithun meat offers a unique and distinct flavor profile, setting it apart from more conventional meat sources. Girish Patil, director of the Nagaland-based National Research Centre on Mithun (NRCM), highlights that this introduction provides an exciting opportunity for meat enthusiasts to diversify their culinary experiences while enriching their gastronomic journeys. Additionally, Mithun meat is recognized for its low fat content and contains essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals commonly found in meat products, enhancing its nutritional value.
- Catalyst for Socio-Economic Growth in Northeast: Beyond its status as a novel food option, FSSAI’s recognition of Mithun carries the potential to drive socio-economic development in the regions where Mithun rearing is practiced. It is expected to stimulate increased demand for Mithun meat, enabling livestock rearers to generate income and potentially expand their rearing activities. Speaking at the Mithun Day program, Kazheto Kinimi, Advisor of AH & Veterinary Services, Govt. of Nagaland, emphasized that Mithun not only sustains local populations but also embodies cultural and social significance. In 2019, it was estimated that India had a Mithun population of 3.9 lakhs, with Arunachal Pradesh alone accounting for 3.50 lakhs.
- Symbol of Prosperity and Cultural Significance: In the northeastern states, Mithun holds sacred and symbolic importance, representing peace, communal harmony, and prosperity. M Iboyaima Meitei, Advisor (Horticulture), North East Council, stressed the need for conservation efforts focused on sustainable breeding practices and habitat protection to ensure the long-term survival of Mithun.