Majority of Canadians see reducing red meat as important, study finds
Canadians claim to understand the environmental impact of eating red meat, but new research shows they are not all walking the talk. The Meatless Farm Co., the plant-based brand, released new research exploring trends in Canadians’ plant-based food consumption in 2020 and the resulting impact on their health and the environment.
According to research conducted with online Canadian members of the Angus Reid Forum, The Meatless Farm found that three-quarters (77 per cent) of consumers say they understand the damaging environmental impact of eating red meat and believe it is important to reduce their carbon footprint (74 per cent) – yet only 38 per cent of Canadians reduced meat consumption in order to do so.
The survey also found that close to half (43 per cent) of Canadians indicated to be more likely to make the switch to a more flexitarian lifestyle – a less strict diet when compared to vegetarian or veganism – if they understood the environmental impact of eating plant-based food. In an effort to provide education on the benefits of switching to a plant-based diet, The Meatless Farm also released its Meatless Consumption Target data earlier this year, finding a number of compelling statistics:
- Each Canadian who swaps out just one beef-based meal for a plant-based meal each week will reduce their greenhouse gas contribution by five per cent each year.
- If the entire country made the once-weekly swap, Canada could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 30 million tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent to taking six million cars off the road.
- This would also reduce agricultural land use by 10 million hectares.
“Across geographies, there is misinformation about the ingredient makeup and health impact of plant-based foods that is clouding consumers’ perceptions of the products,” said Kasper Vesth, General Manager, North America, The Meatless Farm. “We recognized this disconnect and saw an opportunity to provide education on the environmental benefits of shifting to a more flexitarian lifestyle, by comparing red meat to plant-based across everything from production and energy use to transportation and packaging. We hope this will help consumers to make more informed choices when considering plant-based foods in the future.”
Canadians not following through on aspirations to reduce carbon footprint
Understanding the environmental benefits of switching to a more flexitarian lifestyle is important as the majority of Canadians (74 per cent) feel it is imperative to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to diet, the research asked how Canadians are reducing their carbon footprint across all areas of their lifestyle. The Meatless Farm found that in an effort to better protect the environment, Canadians are limiting waste (88 per cent), limiting energy use (77 per cent) and conserving water (58 per cent).
However, Canadians are not always following through when it comes to their personal impact on the environment. Of the group, close to half (41 per cent) claim to drive on their own to work at least three times each week, 32 per cent purchase a coffee in a disposable cup at least twice weekly and 25 per cent request single-use plastic bags when shopping each week.
Canadians resolved to eat more plant-based in 2020
The Meatless Farm looked into Canadians’ general attitudes toward plant-based food items, finding that one-third of consumers are making a resolution to reduce meat consumption in 2020 (33 per cent) and another third (36 per cent) expect to buy more plant-based products in the new year. This trend is driven by individuals age 18 to 24, with over half (52 per cent) expecting to increase consumption of plant-based items, compared to other Canadians aged 35-54 (34 per cent) and over 55 (26 per cent).
Despite resolving to eat less red meat, more than half (56 per cent) of Canadians have hesitations about doing so, citing concerns about the high level of processing (58 per cent), fear of it not tasting good (43 per cent) and a higher price point when compared to meat (39 per cent). Across the country, concerns were highest in the prairies, with 67 per cent of residents of Saskatchewan and 68 per cent of Manitobans hesitating to make the switch.
“We understand Canadians’ hesitations to make a significant change to their diets as it’s always important to monitor what we’re putting into our body and the resulting impact on our health,” continued Vesth. “Our expectation is not for all Canadians to switch to an entirely meat-free diet, but instead to swap one or two meat meals per week for plant-based – a change that our research showed Canadians would be willing to consider if there was evidence of health and environmental benefits. We hope that the Meatless Consumption Target helps to provide this education and support Canadians looking to make a lifestyle change.”
Hope for the next generation
To make a significant environmental impact moving forward, efforts need to begin now to create healthier habits in younger generations. When it comes to a diet specifically, 77 per cent of Canadians agree that the younger generation will eat less meat than the generations before them, and half (49 per cent) feel that it is important for children to reduce consumption of meat. When planning meals for the family, 44 per cent of respondents with children felt they would be open to trying more kid-friendly,