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Almost a third of Danes have cut down on the meat in their diets

A new study from Aarhus University shows that almost a third of the Danes have reduced or stopped their meat consumption. Among these are, in particular, people with higher education, people in larger cities, women and young people.

2021.01.20 | Lotte Rystedt

Consumers who have reduced their meat consumption mention environmental, climate, health and animal welfare considerations as the most important motives for reducing meat consumption. Photo: Colourbox

Recently, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark published new official dietary recommendations that guide consumers to both healthier and more climate-friendly diets. One of the most important recommendations is to eat less meat.

Aarhus University has now published a study which shows that many Danes have already cut down on the meat. Thus, 30% of consumers say that they have reduced or stopped their meat consumption. For 12%, this has happened within the past six months, while 18% have done so more than six months ago.

The results originate from two online questionnaires with almost 3,000 consumers aged 18-70 years of age, and they have been published in the DCA report "Less meat in the diet? Motives for meat reduction and the use of alternatives to meats among people who have reduced meat consumption”. The work was carried out by the MAPP Centre at Department of Management at Aarhus University.

However, the meat is still an important component of the dinner plate for many of the people who now reduce the intake of big steaks. Among those who have reduced meat consumption, 38% still eat meat every day, and almost half define themselves as meat eaters.

Many see themselves as flexitarians

In the study, the researchers see a difference in how consumers perceive their diet principles, and how researchers and nutritionists often define dietary principles, such as vegetarian and flexitarian. In particular, the flexitarian term is the subject of different interpretations.

While flexitarian in a research context is often used for a person whose diet is primarily plant-based, many consumers perceive themselves as flexitarians if they sometimes have meat-free days. This means that 35% of the consumers who have reduced their meat consumption see themselves as flexitarians. On the other hand, if a research definition is used, there is "only" 16% flexitarians among these consumers.

"The results suggest that consumers have a less "strict" perception of the vegetarian and flexitarian terms. The consumers, to a greater extent, associate themselves with meat-reducing diets than the eating habits they have reported provide the basis for," says Julie Hesselberg, Research Assistant at the MAPP Centre and one of the authors behind the report. She points out that a common understanding of dietary principles is important when working with diets and dietary advice.

Environmental and climate considerations are most important

Young people, women and people with higher education, in particular, are reducing their consumption of meat. Consumers who have reduced their meat consumption mention environmental, climate, health and animal welfare considerations as the most important motives for reducing meat consumption. Thus, 70-75 per cent say that they eat less meat because it is better for the environment and the climate.

It is worth mentioning that the family plays an important role in reducing meat consumption.

“Meat reduction rarely gives cause for disagreements between family members, but we still see that it happens more often in families where the person questioned rarely eats meat or lives according to a more consistent diet principle such as a vegan or vegetarian principle. This demonstrates the importance of the family when we work on changing the diets of the Danes. In addition, older children are often active players in the family's choice of food – also when it comes to meat. The children can thus play an active role in the question of meat reduction, but the results also indicate that children can contribute to more frequent meat consumption," says Julie Hesselberg.

Vegetables, beans and peas replace meat

Consumers state that they especially use dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale, as well as nuts, peas, beans and lentils to reduce or omit the meat in the diet. Alternatives to classic dairy products, such as plant drinks and vegan butter, are also often used.

Poultry is the type of meat consumed most frequently among people who have reduced their meat consumption.

A diet with reduced meat consumption does not give cause for concern about the fulfilment of nutritional needs among consumers, and most people believe that they will cover their nutritional needs. However, it is a bit more uncertain whether the nutritional needs will be covered when it comes to the consumers who, according to their own testimony, follow the vegetarian or pescetarian (this means eating fish, dairy products and eggs, but not meat and poultry) diet principles.

Further information
CollaboratorsThe DTU Food Institute has been part of a dialogue about the first of two questionnaires used for the study    
FundingThe report has been prepared as part of the "Framework Agreement on science-based policy advice between the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food and Aarhus University
External commenting

Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark have commented on a draft of this report. Find the comment sheet here. 

Conflicts of interestNo
Read more

The DCA report:  "Less meat in the diet? Motives for meat reduction and the use of alternatives to meats among people who have reduced meat consumption”.

The new official Danish dietary guidelines take climate into account

Contact

Primary: Research Assistent Julie Hesselberg

Tel. +45 2681 1350

Email: juhe@mgmt.au.dk

Secondary: Associate Professor Alice Grønhøj

Email: alg@mgmt.au.dk

DCA, Consumers