Plant-Based Eating In Canada: The Future Is Bright
A team of Canadian researchers recently set off to explore Canadian consumer attachment to meat consumption and their willingness to adopt a plant-based diet. The study consisted of an online survey which was filled out by over a thousand respondents. Such studies typically help to get a better understanding of how populations view protein consumption and what the future perspectives are. This is exceptionally relevant currently, as technological advancements are providing an ever-widening availability of alternative proteins, and especially in Canada, as the national food guide are being actively changed.
Meat Consumption: Past, Present And Future
The study found that even though half of the respondents consume meat daily, the majority claimed to have thought of reducing their personal meat consumption before. Furthermore, a full half intend to do so in the future, with a third pledging to start within 6 months. This is contrasted heavily by a still-dominant belief that, as humans, it is “natural” for us eat meat. Indeed, a quarter of all survey participants believe they would get sick or feel weak without eating meat, obviously a major psychological hurdle which still has to be addressed in advocacy efforts.
Overall, the researchers estimate that over 6.4 million Canadians have some kind of dietary preferences that reduce or eliminate meat consumption. Health, animal welfare, the environment, and taste appear to be major motivators for this dietary shift.
63% of Canadian vegans are under the age of 38, with 4 % of flexitarians belonging to the boomer generation. Some interesting correlations were found among the young:
- Younger consumers are less likely to believe that eating meat is a fundamental right.
- Younger and more educated respondents are less likely to “love” meals with meat.
- Younger survey participants appear to be more receptive to cultured meat, despite the fact that it and insects/bugs were, in general, unpopular as protein alternatives.
More broadly, consumers with graduate degrees exhibited a higher desire to reduce meat consumption over the next 6 months. Interestingly, more than half of households with three or more children appear to be more influenced by taste preferences, possibly owing to the stress involved in getting many children to come together to eat healthy meals. Meanwhile, more than half of households with two children are concerned about health benefits of the different diets.
The research group reports that health benefits appear to be important for both genders alike, while women appear to be more concerned about animal welfare and taste preferences. Furthermore, women seem to recognize potential substitutes for meat more easily than men. However, about half of all respondents claimed to know how to replace meat in their diets with other protein sources.
On the other side of the gender spectrum, men were shown to be more likely to consider eating meat as a great pleasure in life. As a matter of fact, men who are less educated are more likely to see themselves as big fans of meat in general. This opinion was particularly prevalent in older men.
Overall, the study has produced some interesting figures, and supports the idea of strong growth in the interest of plant-based diets. Animal advocates will find further proof and evidence that they could focus their efforts towards the most open-minded groups: younger folks and women. However, the study also presents some opportunities for casting a wider net.