Guwahati: With the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recognising Mithun as a food animal, meat lovers can look to a unique culinary experience.

Mithun meat offers a unique culinary experience with its distinctive flavour, lean profile, and cultural significance. “While it may differ from beef in terms of taste and texture, it provides an alternative for those seeking novel gastronomic experiences and looking to support local, sustainable livestock practices,” ICAR-National Research Centre on Mithun (NRCM) officials said. The National Research Centre on Mithun(NRCM) is situated at Medziphema in Nagaland.

“The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has officially recognized Mithun as a food animal, effective from September 1, 2023. To commemorate this milestone and celebrate the recognition, ICAR-NRC on Mithun proposes to establish “Mithun Day” on September 1 every year and the Mithun meat is named “Weeshi.” In addition, Mithun is included in the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) database.” NRCM officials said.

The introduction of Mithun meat as an alternative for meat lovers in the rest of India not only diversifies culinary options but also acts as a catalyst for socio-economic growth in the regions where Mithun rearing is practised. “It bridges the gap between traditional practices and contemporary culinary preferences, all while contributing to the livelihoods and prosperity of Mithun rearers and their communities,” officials said.

Mithun (Bos frontalis) meat differs from bovine or beef meat in several aspects, including taste, texture, nutritional composition, and cultural significance.

 “Mithun, as a lesser-known meat source compared to conventional options, brings a novel and distinctive flavour profile to the table. Its introduction provides an opportunity for meat enthusiasts to explore new tastes and culinary experiences, enriching their gastronomic journeys.

Moreover, the integration of Mithun meat can have a profound impact on the livelihoods of Mithun rearers. As Mithun gains popularity as a meat choice, the demand for this specialty product is likely to increase. This surge in demand translates into economic opportunities for the communities engaged in Mithun rearing. The economic upswing is two-fold: first, the increased demand creates a market for Mithun meat, allowing rearers to generate income from their livestock; second, the need for more Mithun rearing could lead to the expansion of existing operations and the establishment of new ventures, thereby generating employment opportunities within these communities,” officials said.

Speaking at the Mithun Day programme on Friday, Kazheto Kinimi, Advisor of AH & Veterinary Services, Govt. of Nagaland said Mithun occupies a significant cultural and dietary role in the indigenous communities of North East regions. He pointed out that this is the right time for us to promote entrepreneurship activities in Mithun as it is recognized as a food animal. Rearing and consumption of Mithun not only contributes to the sustenance of these local populations but also reflect the cultural and social significance attached to this remarkable food animal, he added. 

Arunachal Pradesh emerges as a prominent leader in Mithun husbandry, witnessing remarkable growth in its Mithun population. With a population of 249,000 in 2012, the state has soared to a staggering 350,154 Mithun individuals in 2019, representing a substantial increase of 40.62%. 

This surge underscores the state’s dedication to fostering a thriving Mithun population and its commitment to conserving this unique species. In contrast, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram present diverse scenarios in their Mithun population dynamics. 

Nagaland’s Mithun population has witnessed a decline, transitioning from 34,871 in 2012 to 23,123 in 2019, marking a reduction of 33.69%. While this decline may pose challenges, it also highlights the need for strategic interventions to revive and sustain Mithun populations in the region. 

Manipur’s Mithun population has experienced a moderate decrease, moving from 10,131 in 2012 to 9,059 in 2019, reflecting a reduction of 10.58%.

 On the other hand, Mizoram’s Mithun population has shown a positive trajectory, with numbers increasing from 3,287 in 2012 to 3,957 in 2019, reflecting a growth of 20.38%. 

Shri Temjen Imna Along, Minister of Higher Education & Tourism, Govt of Nagaland also attended the program and highlighted the importance of ICAR-NRCM in inspiring the Mithun farmers as it provides livelihood security and is considered an auspicious and spiritual animal. He was proud that he was a “Mithun farmer” and encouraged other farmers to take up scientific Mithun farming. He urged all Mithun farmers to stop the indiscriminate slaughter of well-built large-size Mithun and should be kept for breeding.

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Dr. Abhijit Mitra, Animal Husbandry Commissioner, DAHD, GoI, and Former Director, ICAR – NRC on Mithun, strongly emphasized the scope of Mithun as an organic, functional, and alternative food. Dr. Mitra urged the North East Animal Husbandry Departments to utilize the animal husbandry schemes demonstrating a commitment to the development of the agricultural and livestock sectors. Utilizing these schemes can lead to increased productivity, income generation, and the sustainable management of livestock resources, benefiting both farmers and the broader community, he added.

Shri M Iboyaima Meitei, Advisor (Horticulture), North East Council was a guest of honour during the occasion and said this species not only plays a crucial role in the livelihoods and dietary traditions of indigenous communities but also contributes to the rich biodiversity of the regions where it is found. Conservation efforts should focus on sustainable breeding practices and habitat protection to ensure the long-term survival of Mithun, he added.

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