Germany has a meat-loving reputation, but increasingly, the country seems to be bucking its own trend and embracing plant-based alternatives.
Despite climate experts recommending a mainstream shift to plant-based diets, Germany is one of the few countries, alongside Sweden, to demonstrate an actual reduction in meat consumption. (Meanwhile, other rich countries have either plateaued at a generally high level or are slowly increasing their meat consumption.)
In 2011, the average German citizen ate 138 pounds of meat per year. But that has since dropped by 12.3 percent. Now, the average German eats around 121 pounds of animal protein per year.
Back in March, research suggested that more than half (51 percent) of the German population had reduced their meat intake in the previous year. Plus, research from the Smart Protein Project suggested that in 2020, the sales value of plant-based food in the country increased by 97 percent.
Germany ditches meat
The meat industry contributes 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and is a driving force behind global deforestation.
Rich nations have been told they must reduce their meat consumption by 75 percent if the climate crisis is to stand any chance of improving. The reduction recommendation came from Germany’s own University of Bonn, though citizens were already making meaningful plant-based progress.
A poll conducted by Veganz revealed that between 2016 and 2020, the number of vegans doubled to 2.6 million. This represented 3.2 percent of the entire population, but not enough of an explanation for a drop in meat consumption.
Food awareness organization ProVeg International offers an opinion, claiming that it is the flexitarian market that has reduced consumer interest in meat. A study by Forsa appears to corroborate the explanation.
Forsa found that almost half (49 percent) of the 1,000 people it surveyed had previously bought and eaten vegetarian or vegan alternatives to animal-based foods.
Sustainability and animal welfare concerns were cited by 60 percent of participants. Health was quoted by 49 percent. Older age groups leaned towards the latter as a primary motivator.
Accessibility helping consumers make the switch
Helping German consumers make the switch is increased availability of plant-based products, with restaurants, startups, and big food manufacturers all jumping on the meat-free trend.
German meat company Rügenwalder Mühle started manufacturing plant-based meats in 2014. Last year it reported that these had overtaken its animal products in terms of annual sales.
Just recently, Burger King Germany started to offer a plant-based version of every menu item, to appeal to flexitarians, vegetarians, and vegan diners.
Even cultural events are recognizing the importance of inclusivity. Oktoberfest, famous for selling upwards of 400,000 sausages per annual event, now offers plant-based options.