The new evidence, produced by Hans Dagevos from Wageningen UR in the Netherlands, suggests many consumers are interested reducing meat consumption without turning away from meat completely.
The new data finds more than three-quarters of the consumers questioned have at least one ‘meat free day’ per week, while over 40% eat no meat at least three days per week.
“Giving up meat completely is a food consumption pattern change that is too drastic and unattractive for most people,” say the researchers. “But making efforts to eat meat less frequently is becoming customary to many Dutch consumers and hardly a strange or problematic food habit anymore.”
“It would not come as a complete surprise, then, when flexitarianism, as a third way between carnivorous and vegetarian food styles, develops into a growth area in the years to come.”
Cannot be ignored
Dagevos and his colleagues suggested that such findings imply that the trend for flexitarianism cannot be ignored by the food industry.
“Figures like these demonstrate that a considerable number of Dutch food consumers declare that they eat no meat at dinner for several days in the week,” they write.
“When these data on the meat eating frequency of a representative group of Dutch consumers are related to official statistics regarding the absolute amount of meat that is eaten in The Netherlands, it is likewise convincingly demonstrated that flexitarianism should be situated in a full-blown carnivorous food consumer culture.”
A Dutch phenomenon?
The Dutch researchers say that the emerging trend for reducing the consumption of meat exists not only in the Netherlands but also elsewhere in Europe, and can also be seen in Germany.
The German population contains the highest percentage of vegetarians of the European member states and a large number of part-time vegetarians who eat no meat at least three days per week, they note.
“It would be no surprise if further research were to reveal a large potential among German consumers for pushing the trend for reduced meat consumption even further.”