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Meat Consumption Habits are Changing

23 January 2012

ANALYSIS - The current economic crisis and new eating habits are reducing consumption of meat in the developed world, writes TheMeatSite Editor in Chief Chris Harris.

The consumption of meat in the United States is expected to be 12.2 per cent lower this year than in 2007, according to a report from Danish Crown and Food and Culture.

On average each American is forecast to eat approximately 75kg meat in 2012 and while this may appear to be a large amount, it is actually 12.2 per cent less than in 2007. In 1999 the average US consumption of meat was 86kg.

However, while consumption has dropped in the US, it still has a high per capita consumption compared with many other countries around the world, although the trend for reduced meat consumption is being reflected in many of the developed nations.

A report from Minna Kanerva from the University of Bremen said that in Europe, the UK is the country with most stable consumption, while Spain has seen the fastest increase, rising from lowest to highest position, although in recent times consumption has levelled off.

France has been recording a drop in consumption over the last decade and while Germany had seen a drop in consumption in the 1990's this has now levelled off.

The Netherlands has seen the steepest fall in meat consumption together with Hungary.

Finland and the Netherlands have the lowest meat consumption in Europe and the greatest fall across Europe has been in the consumption of beef, according to Minna Kanerva.

A report from Euromonitor also shows that sales of meat in the developed nations have slowed as the growing trend meat-free or meat-reduced diets has its impact on consumer markets.

The Euromonitor report shows that meat has been one of the worst performers between 2005 and 2010 with sales growing less than 14 per cent ahead only of vegetables at just under 11 per cent.

Euromonitor says that part of the issue is that there has been a growing trend for low-meat diets in Europe and North America - often backed by celebrity led campaigns such as Meatless Thursday and Meat-free Monday.

The Euromonitor report shows that the modern consumer as a more complex character with various religious, market and fashion trends starting to dictate the way they spend their money and on what, as well as other concerns over expense and cash flow.

It reports a new kind of consumer emerging - a "flexitarian" - who is reducing meat consumption because of health and environmental concerns.

Euromonitor said it predicts that a gradually growing population of vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, meat-reducers and "vegivores" are set to consume more meat free foods and the global value of meat alternatives is set to increase by 15 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

With countries in the developed nations such as the US eating less meat, it means that there is more domestic product on the market, increasing competition for those meat exporting countries.

However, with growing wealth, populations and urbanisation in developing countries, there is an opportunity for the global meat trade to find new markets and compensate for the drops in consumption in the developed nations.

Karl Christian Møller, Chief Analyst of Danish Crown said: "We see a tendency for consumption worldwide will be more evenly distributed. While the Americans cutting back on consumption of meat, consumers in countries such as China and other middle income countries put their consumption up and are buying more meat."

Because of the growth in regions such as China, SE Asia, Russia, South America and India, meat consumption globally is increasing almost at a rate where production and trade cannot keep up with demand.

While the industry is might be struggling to meet this growing demand outside the developed world, it can alleviate the problem by cutting waste.

FAO figures show that about a third of all food produced globally in the industrialised world is wasted and more than a fifth of meat.

In Europe alone 3.1 per cent of meat is lost in production, 0.7 per cent in handling and storage and five per cent in processing and packaging. Another four per cent is lost during distribution and another 11 per cent at the consumption stage.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

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