Meat remains permanent fixture on Belgian plates

96% of Belgians eat meat, study findsm
calendar icon 12 July 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

According to a press release from the Flemish Agricultural Marketing Board(VLAM), meat remains by far the most important source of protein in Belgium. The absolute majority of Belgians (96%) eat meat. A very small group (4%) has a purely vegetarian lifestyle.

The main reason for choosing meat is its taste. In addition to taste, nutrition is an important motivation. According to the study, Belgians see meat as an essential source of nutrients. Furthermore, meat is strongly ingrained in dietary habits (68%), so purchasing, preparing and finding recipe inspiration takes little effort, said the release. These findings were the result of an iVox survey, conducted in February 2022.

According to the study, 75% of Belgians look for variation in protein sources. The main change regarding meat consumption is in the number of times meat is included in a meal. Variation on the plate has increased, resulting in less meat consumption in the long term.

The survey also found that Belgians do not view meat negatively. In fact, 9 out of 10 Belgians (90%) indicate they do not have a negative attitude towards the product. The main driver for variation in eating habits is breaking the regular routine. For example, only 9% think that meat does not fit into a healthy diet. For a part of the population (29%) express concern for the environment, which is an argument for variation. Animal cruelty is an argument mostly used by those who rarely or never eat meat.

The study also found that the majority of Belgians vary in protein sources (meat, fish or vegetarian). Less than 1 in 5 (17%) say they will still eat meat almost every day in 2022, but this group has decreased in recent years (from 24% in 2014). On the other hand, the study found that only 8% do not eat meat every week. A further 4% never eat it and this percentage has remained stable for a number of years. Leaving aside the two extremes, this means that 75% of Belgians regularly eat meat, alternating with fish and vegetarian diets, so that they have a varied diet.

The study also found that Belgians prefer to eat locally. Almost 3 in 5 Belgians (58%) indicate that the country of origin has an influence on their purchase choice of fresh meat. An absolute majority (95%) of them indicate that they have a preference for local meat. The preference for domestic meat is mainly due to the support for the domestic economy, the confidence in the controls in Belgium (safer) and the efforts made by the Belgian meat sector in the field of the environment and animal welfare. For the time being, this perception of being more environmentally friendly is mainly due to the shorter transport required. Further knowledge about the environmental impact of domestic meat is rather limited. For example, only 18% know that the CO2 emissions of Belgian White-Blue cattle are lower than those of, for example, Irish cattle.

Home meat consumption figures in a nutshell

Between 2014 and 2018, home consumption of meat, including poultry, decreased by 3% annually, by 2% in 2018 and by 1% in 2019. This was offset by increasing consumption outside the home and an increased interest in ready-to-eat meals, which are not included in the home consumption of meat. As a result of the corona crisis and the associated restrictive measures (including closure of the catering industry, mandatory home work), consumption at home increased and consumption outside the home decreased in 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, GfK Belgium recorded a home consumption of 28.4 kg per capita for meat including poultry, which is 9% more than in 2019 before the corona crisis.

Fresh chicken remains the most important category in volume with 8.0 kg per capita, followed by fresh meat mixtures (including mixed minced meat, mixed skewers, etc.) (6.3 kg), fresh pork (5.4 kg), fresh beef (4 .6 kg), other fresh meat (veal, turkey, lamb, horse meat, rabbit, game,…) (2.7 kg) and frozen meat and poultry (1.5 kg).

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