A study by Vanhonacker et al. in the journal Appetite found that while Flemish people are open to meat substitutes, organic meat, moderation of meat consumption and sustainable fish, they are not prepared to pay a premium.
The study was intended to discover attitudes to curbing meat consumption in order to reduce the ecological impact of animal production.
“It will be a challenge to change meat consumption behaviour as numerous barriers exist including preconceptions towards vegetarian diets, habits and prices,” said the study.
The researchers conducted a cross-sectional online survey with 221 participants from the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium.
Reducing meat consumption was considered the preferred alternative; followed by eating sustainably-farmed fish, lower environmental impact meat such as chicken and game and organic meat.
Premium more acceptable for organic meat
“Figures were clearly less positive when it concerned willingness to pay a price premium. Only for the consumption of organic meat, a positive willingness to pay was registered,” said the study.
“This could be explained by the participants familiarity with the price premium for organic products, as well as by consumers’ strong beliefs about both environmental and personal health benefits from organic food consumption,” it continued.
The organic meat market in Belgium accounts for just 0.6% of total meat sales, much lower than the average level across Europe.
Hybrid meat products (where meat is partly substituted by plant-based ingredients) and meat substitutes such as tofu have a very low market share in Europe, according to the researchers.
The found that consumers were slightly willing to consume hybrid meat products, but were largely negative about plant-based meat substitutes and proteins from insects.
“Opportunities of introducing insects currently appear to be non-existent,” said the researchers.
Belgian consumers have one of the highest ecological footprints in Europe. According to Global Footprint Network the average footprint for a Belgian consumer is 7.11 global hectares/person compared to 4.72 for the average European.
Most participants in the study were unwilling to pay taxes for unsustainable meat products, which could dampen potential policies to influence consumption of meat.
Appetite, Volume 62, 1 March 2013, Pages 7–16
‘Flemish consumer attitudes towards more sustainable food choices’
Authors: Filiep Vanhonacker, Ellen J. Van Loo, Xavier Gellynck, Wim Verbeke