(A poster of Indian holy cow Kamdhenu is pictured outside a goushala or a cow shelter in the old quarters of Delhi June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee )

Symbols of India’s emergence as an economic powerhouse line the four-lane highway to Jaipur out of New Delhi: a factory owned by the world’s biggest motorbike maker, glass towers housing global call centres, shopping malls for India’s burgeoning middle class.

One night in August here, an angry mob ran amok, burning trucks and government property and forcing traffic to halt and factories to shut.

The rioters were incensed over an issue arguably as old as India itself: the eating of beef, which the country’s majority Hindus have considered sacrilegious for at least a thousand years.

Perhaps surprisingly in a country where so many people view cows as sacred, India could soon become the world’s biggest beef exporter, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).