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Meat consumption down (but not out) in the Netherlands

The number of people reducing their meat consumption is rising in the Netherlands, while the number of people who eat meat every day has fallen significantly, according to research conducted by Wageningen University's Agricultural Economics Institute.

So-called "light" meat reducers - meat eaters who eat no meat at least one day per week - comprise 77,1 percent of the population in the Netherlands in 2012, up from 69,5 percent in 2009. The number of people who eat meat every day dropped from 26,7 percent in 2009 to 18,4 percent in 2011.

Of the over 1.200 people surveyed, 42,5 percent eat meat at their main meal of the day no more than 4 days per week. Nearly 20 percent of respondents eat meat once or twice per week at most, about equal to the number of people who eat meat every day.

Between 20 and 30 percent of respondents indicated that they have started to eat less meat over the past year and / or plan to reduce their meat consumption over the coming year. However, the majority of people (58,3 percent) have not changed their meat consumption over the past year and do not plan to do so.

Although many people avoid meat at least one day per week, the decision to do so isn't always as ideological or straightforward as one might suspect. Just 13 percent of respondents identify themselves as "meat reducers" or "flexitarians," and reducing meat consumption is not necessarily perceived as being "cool."

In spite of the decline in meat consumption, meat is still viewed by many people as an absolute necessity, with 63 percent agreeing with the suggestion that "meat makes the meal complete."

A love of animals and opposition to animal suffering are not clearly linked to reduced meat consumption. Eating less meat is thus not always driven by moral convictions, and health-related, practical or financial considerations may also play a role in reduced meat consumption.

Nowadays there are both regional and local campaigns in Europe promoting the idea of a meat-free day of the week, run mostly by NGOs such as environmental organisations. The researchers found it interesting that meat-free days and the trend of reducing meat consumption receive very little open or active support from national governments in Europe.

The data from this report came from a survey of 1.253 people, representative of the Dutch population in terms of gender, age, and educational level, conducted in October 2011 by LEI Wageningen UR, Wageningen University & Research centre's Agricultural Economics Institute.

Download the "Vlees vooral(snog) vanzelfsprekend: Consumenten over vlees eten en vleesminderen" pdf (in Dutch). An English summary of the report can be found here.

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Carly Blair

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