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French and German consumers reduce meat consumption

2 min read
AUTHOR: Matt Ridout

Research shows that many French and German consumers are reducing the amount of meat they eat, citing concerns for animal welfare and the environment as their primary reasons for their dietary change.

The new research, conducted by an international research team from the University of Bath (UK), Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté (France), and Ipsos (Germany) found there is a growing acceptance of non-meat diets in both Germany and France. However, of the two countries, the French consumer is more likely to be influenced by tradition and culture where their attitudes to meat-free dishes are concerned.

For their investigation, researchers surveyed 1,000 people in each country asking them a series of questions about their current and intended dietary habits, as well as for their thoughts about cultured meat — i.e. meat produced without raising and slaughtering animals. This new method of meat production mirrors the biological process of building muscle but does so under controlled conditions.

Their analysis found that just 45% of German respondents identified as full meat-eaters, with a further 31% now actively following flexitarian or meat-reduced diets. Meat consumption was more common in France, where 69% identified as full meat-eaters with a further 26% following a flexitarian diet.

The research also reveals promising markets for cultured meat in both countries. Although the majority of consumers in France and Germany had still not heard of cultured meat, 44% of French and 58% of Germans respondents said they would be willing to try it, with 37% of French consumers and 56% of Germans willing to buy it themselves.

The publication highlights Germany as one of the most vegetarian nations in Europe, noting that per capita meat consumption has been trending down for several decades. Now, for the first time, evidence suggests that German consumers who are not deliberately limiting their meat consumption are in the minority. These patterns are mirrored in France, where almost half of meat-eaters intend to reduce animal consumption in the years ahead although attitudes are harder to shift.

The researchers say that the social implications of these findings could be profound. Lead author Christopher Bryant from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath explained: “We know that the social normality of meat consumption plays a large role in justifying it. Now we are approaching a tipping point where the majority of people are deciding that, primarily for ethical and environmental reasons, we need to move away from eating animals. As eating animals becomes less normal, we will likely see a rise in demand for alternatives like plant-based and cultured meat.”

“The normality of meat-eaters being the majority is reversing as more people move towards plant-based diets. The development of better and better alternatives, including cultured meat, only makes this transition easier.”