KANSAS CITY, Mo. – India is where the water buffalo roam and the reason the country was the No. 1 beef exporter in the world in 2014, according to the US Department of Agriculture. India, which exported 5.3 billion lbs. of beef, widened its lead over Brazil (4.4 billion lbs.) and Australia (3.3 billion lbs.). India accounted for 23.5 percent of beef exports in 2014, compared to 20.8 percent in 2013.
It is water buffalo, not beef from cattle, that has helped propel India to the top. Water buffalo is a member for the bovine family and classified as beef by the USDA.

Water buffalo is a chewier and cheaper alternative to beef. It is eaten mostly by consumers in Asia and the Middle East, who are demanding more animal protein in their diets.

According to CNN, the water buffalo trade has been growing rapidly and now earns India more export dollars than basmati rice.

India is 80 percent Hindus, and Hindus consider cows as sacred. There are no LongHorn Steakhouses in India, considering the restrictions on cattle slaughter. However, water buffalo slaughter is not included in the restrictions.

Interestingly, water buffaloes are needed to keep India’s huge domestic dairy industry going, according to CNN.

Vietnam is the top importer of water buffalo, but China may be the top consumer, considering that 40 percent of the water buffalo imported to Vietnam is sent to China.