Meat producers have cause for concern for the future as an increasing number of young people turn to a vegan diet, according to a Canadian food expert.
Sylvain Charlebois is a Professor of Food Distribution and Policy at Dalhousie University. Earlier this year he carried out research showing that 2.3 percent of Canadians identify as vegan, with 8.6 percent of respondents in B.C identifying as vegan.
Interestingly, almost 40 percent of British Columbians 35 and under identifed as vegan or vegetarian, according to the poll – a result Charlebois described as ‘astonishing’.
Speaking to Canadian television network CTV News’ Your Morning show yesterday, the academic said the high proportion of young people ditching meat is a ‘disturbing fact’ for the meat industry.
He added: “This means they’ll become more influential in the economy and likely they’ll be raising children the way that they’re eating themselves, so that influence is going to become more palpable moving forward.”
Reasons for going vegan
Charlebois claimed there are ‘four distinctive reasons’ people are going vegan. “One is the environment – more and more science is suggesting that the carbon footprint of the livestock industry is significant,” he said.
“The second one is animal welfare. A lot of people haven’t grown up on a farm, they haven’t been on a farm, but they do see nasty videos of people brutalizing animals and that’s affecting them as consumers.
“Third one is health. I can’t remember the last time I read a study suggesting that we should eat more meat – plant-based dieting seems to be ‘in’, or at least the scientific evidence seems to be pretty strong encouraging people to eat more vegetable proteins.
“Lastly, there is price. Vegetable proteins are in fact cheaper.”
Describing this trend of people moving away from meat as a ‘source of concern for the meat industry’, Charlebois said, but he added that he’s been meeting a lot of meat producers around Canada, and that he’s not ‘entirely sure the industry appreciates what’s happening’.
“They’re trying to figure out different ways,” he said, “but as soon as you see major chains offering vegetarian solutions to consumers – burger chains [like major outlet A&W which recently launched the Beyond Burger] – that’s a concern.”