October 30, 2018, Halifax —Dalhousie University is sharing preliminary findings of a key study looking at Canadians’ attitudes toward plant-based protein alternatives two days ahead of World Vegan Day (November 1).
“More and more Canadians are considering reducing the amount of protein from meat in their diets,” says Charlebois. “Canada’s new food guide will be released in the months to come, and advances in technology have given consumers more protein choices. We wanted to learn more about what Canadians think about eating meat and plant-based alternatives, and how willing they are to reduce their meat consumption and consider new types of proteins.”
The study, “Plant-based dieting and meat attachment: Protein wars and the changing Canadian consumer,” was conducted by principal investigator Professor Sylvain Charlebois, with support from Simon Somogyi, Arrell Chair in the Business of Food at the University of Guelph, and Janet Musicfrom Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management. An online survey administered in September 2018 revealed important information about how Canadians view protein alternatives.
Who is changing their eating habits?
6.4 million Canadians are already following a diet that restricts meat partially or completely, even though most consider meat to be part of a healthy diet. Just under half of respondents eat meat daily, with an additional 40 per cent saying they eat meat once or twice a week. Just over half of respondents are willing to reduce their meat consumption, and one-third are willing to do in the next six months. Regionally, Ontarians are the most likely to already be eating less meat, and those in Atlantic Canada are the least likely.
Do men and women see meat eating the same way?
Gender differences appear to play a role in determining meat-eating habits. Although the health benefits of reducing meat consumption are equally important to women and men, women were more likely to be concerned about animal welfare. Women were also more likely to agree that meat is replaceable by other sources of protein, and about half of all respondents said they knew how to replace meat in their diets with other proteins. Men were, however, more likely to consider eating meat one of life’s great pleasures, particularly older men.
Does age make a difference?
Younger and more educated respondents were less likely to love meals with meat, and more likely to want plant-based alternatives. Sixty-three per cent of respondents following a vegan diet—free from all animal-based products—were under the age of 38. Younger consumers are also less likely to believe that eating meat is a fundamental right.
Lab-grown meat and insect-based proteins are still not appealing to Canadian consumers, but younger respondents are more receptive to the idea of lab-grown meat.
“The great thing about food is that it’s important to everyone,” says Somogyi. “No matter where you are or who you are, you have to eat and we are seeing more and more changes in the way people eat in Canada. By 2050, there will be more than 10 billion people on the planet, and while people will still be eating animal protein, plant-based proteins that are more sustainably produced are a creditable alternative.”
The full preliminary results are available online here.