Interest waning in red meat consumption

Thirty-five percent said they had consumed less beef in the previous 12 months, nearly triple the 12 percent who ate more beef. The poll also showed 25 percent of respondents ate less pork, nearly double the 13 percent who consumed more of it. | Getty Images

Thirty-five percent say they consumed less beef in previous 12 months, nearly triple the 12 percent who ate more beef

A national poll has found that more than a third of Canadians are eating less red meat than they were a year ago.

“This was our first time polling on this particular subject matter,” said Adrian Macaulay, director of research and polling at Grassroots Public Affairs Inc.

“We did not enter in with any preconceived notions or assumptions as to what things might look like. But the one-sentence takeaway from this data, and the data will support this, is that red meat stakeholders have their work cut out for them.”

He spoke at a recent webinar outlining the results of the company’s third-annual National Opinion Poll on Agri-Food Issues in Canada. The online survey involved 1,000 people across the country from March 23 to 30.

Thirty-five percent said they had consumed less beef in the previous 12 months, nearly triple the 12 percent who ate more beef. The poll also showed 25 percent of respondents ate less pork, nearly double the 13 percent who consumed more of it.

It’s important to note that 51 percent of respondents said they were still eating the same amount of pork, along with 45 percent for beef, “so it’s not like the markets are falling off the cliff,” said Peter Seemann, principal and senior consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs.

“But there are some signs here that things are changing.”

Another highlight of the survey for Macaulay was that “so few people eat lamb, which had the highest percentage of people who said they cannot or do not eat the product.”

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they don’t eat lamb, overshadowing the eight percent of respondents who said they don’t eat pork, not to mention five percent for beef.

Only six percent of respondents said they ate more lamb in the previous year compared to 18 percent who ate less.

The poll looked at the consumption of 11 different sources of protein. Although respondents were eating less red meat, they were consuming more animal protein such as eggs (33 percent) and fish/seafood (30 percent).

Respondents also indicated they ate 20 percent more plant-based protein products such as pea and soy in the previous 12 months, compared to 11 percent who ate less.

Consumption of plant-based proteins such as legumes and seeds also increased at a greater rate compared to products made of pea or soy.

However, unlike the demographics for red meat, there is a substantial difference in eating habits between people such as millennials and baby boomers in terms of plant protein, said Macaulay.

Thirty percent of people ages 65 and over said they cannot or do not eat plant-based protein, similar to 28 percent for those ages 55 to 64. The total for all Canadians was 21 percent.

Respondents ages 25 to 34 were 25 percent more likely to eat somewhat more plant protein, compared to 16 percent for all Canadians.

“And someone might say, ‘oh, well, that younger people are more plant based,’ or, you know, ‘older people are not interested in that,’” said Macaulay.

But people ages 18 to 44 were also more likely to be willing to try lab-grown meat once it is approved for sale compared to those ages 45 and older.

Respondents within the younger group ranged from 41 to 47 percent compared to 25 to 28 percent for the older group.

As a combined group, 59 percent of Canadians overall said they were not interested in trying lab-grown meat, compared to 33 percent who were interested. This year’s poll marked the first time the question has been asked.

Macaulay said an idea for future research could be whether younger people are more interested in alternatives to meats in general, whether it be lab-grown meat or plant-based protein products.

“And I think older Canadians are a little bit more traditional in that regard.”

Seemann said the context of whether lab-grown meat will be a passing fad or not is the current explosion of technology and innovation affecting every aspect of society, including food.

“The primary message here is industries can’t be complacent, and us old folks that like our Sunday roast beef may not be having the same diet as kids and grandkids, so (it’s) interesting to look at, and we’ll be tracking this moving forward.”

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