One of the most memorable food shows I’ve ever attended was a showcase for the international meat sector, held in Germany. As I dashed from one hall to another along a moving walkway with hundreds of other visitors, I was awed by both the physical size of the event, and by the magnitude of the meat sector represented there.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised by the uproar following the announcement last month by German environment minister Barbara Hendricks that meat and fish would be banned from all official ministry events. Hendricks may have been coming from a sustainability point of view, citing meat consumption as bad for the environment, but her decision could also reflect the fact that there have been numerous studies in recent years showing that lowering red meat consumption is better for your long-term health.
Regardless of your view on meat consumption, consumers around the world are already taking note. Driven by concerns over health, the environment and animal welfare, consumption of all meats in Canada dropped roughly 10 kg per capita from 1980 to 2015, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The type of meat consumed has also changed dramatically. For instance, in 1980 Canadians ate 22.30 kg of poultry (chicken, turkey and fowl) per capita; 41 kg of beef, veal and lamb; and 32.16 kg of pork. By 2015 those numbers had shifted, with Canadians consuming39.14 kg of poultry; 26.31 kg of red meat; and 22.63 kg of pork that year. Interestingly, egg consumption, which sat at 21.96 dozen per capital in 1980, declined steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s based on the low-cholesterol messages of the time, only picking up again in the late 2000s, to sit at 19.40 kg in 2015.
While the Canadian meat industry is working to meet current consumer thought on humane animal production and processing, some companies are realizing that to survive they must diversify, offering a wider range of protein alternatives to meat. By expanding their portfolio of protein, producers are complementing rather than challenging their existing red meat and poultry products, offering more for the increasing number of “flexitarian” consumers whose diet choices may vary significantly from week to week.
That’s why the March issue of Food in Canada, traditionally “the meat issue,” is now officially the “protein issue” in recognition of the ever widening arena of protein sources now available to consumers. Let’s hope the next revision of Canada’s Food Guide reflects some of the changing realities in the world of protein as well.