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Religion, Food Choices, and Demand Seasonality: Evidence from the Ethiopian Milk Market

Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
HIVA, Research Institute for Work and Society, University of Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Department of General Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Foods 2019, 8(5), 167;
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 10 May 2019 / Accepted: 13 May 2019 / Published: 16 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Sensory and Consumer Sciences)
PDF [612 KB, uploaded 16 May 2019]


The impact of religious behavior on food systems in developing economies has been understated in scholarly studies. With its different Christian, Islamic, and traditional faiths, Ethiopia emerges as a suitable country to investigate the impact of religious practices on demand. The inclusion of livestock products in Ethiopian diets is extremely low, even by African standards, a phenomenon often explained by supply and marketing problems combined with low income levels. We deviate from this dominant narrative and single out the impact of religion. We show how fasting practices of Orthodox Christians, the largest religious group, affect milk intake decisions and channels through which consumed milk is sourced. Employing country-wide data collected by the Living Standards Measurement Studies, we find, as expected, that Orthodox fasting adversely affects milk consumption and decreases the share of milk sourced from own production in Orthodox households, an effect we quantify in this paper. Moreover, we observe spillover effects of Orthodox fasting on other religious groups in dominant Orthodox localities. Our findings improve understanding of the broader societal implication of religiously inspired consumption rituals and underscore the challenges resulting from religion-induced demand cycles to design policies that aim at developing the livestock sector. View Full-Text
Keywords: milk intake; consumers; demand seasonality; religion; Ethiopia milk intake; consumers; demand seasonality; religion; Ethiopia

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D’Haene, E.; Desiere, S.; D’Haese, M.; Verbeke, W.; Schoors, K. Religion, Food Choices, and Demand Seasonality: Evidence from the Ethiopian Milk Market. Foods 2019, 8, 167.

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