Plant-based protein becomes more popular

Researchers link a projected decline in meat prices to reduced demand as Canadians look to lower meat consumption

Canadians are showing more interest in reducing meat consumption while increasing their purchases of plant-based proteins, according to data compiled in the latest Food Price Report from the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University.

Overall, the report predicted a 1.5 to 3.5 percent increase in the average Canadian food bill in 2019. At the high end, that would translate into an increase of $411 in food expenses for the average family of four.

Vegetable prices are forecast to increase by four to six percent, according to the report. However, meat prices are forecast to decline by as much as three percent.

The researchers linked the projected decline in meat prices to reduced demand as a significant portion of Canadians look to lower their meat consumption while switching to plant-based protein alternatives. An earlier survey conducted by the same universities found that 32.2 percent of respondents were considering reducing meat consumption.

Health Canada plans to release a new food guide in 2019 and the university researchers expect the guide will prioritize consumption of plant-based foods.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an overwhelming interest in alternatives to meat and dairy, shifting the focus towards vegetarian and vegan eating patterns,” said the report.

That rising consumer interest in meat alternatives is being seen in Western Canada as a number of pea processing plants are under construction or already operational.

Reached via email, Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food policy at Dalhousie and a project lead for the Food Price Report, said increases in prices for the base ingredients (peas, lentils, chickpeas) used in the production of plant-based protein alternatives “should be expected.”

However, he added when those increases will take place and how large they may be is unknown. The study only looks at retail trends, but Charlebois said the farmgate implications will be looked at in the future.

Canadian farmers seeded 3.75 million acres of peas in 2018, 2.23 million acres of lentils and 282,800 acres of chickpeas, according to Statistics Canada data. Those three crops accounted for about 10 percent of all the major commodities grown in the country.

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