Consumers want beans rather than bugs and plant-based burgers

European consumers are happy to cut down on meat consumption but the products they favour as replacements might come as a surprise.

Just over 40% of consumers from 11 EU countries (not including the UK) have either stopped eating red meat or cut down due to “environmental concerns”, according to a survey of 11,000 people conducted by BEUC, the European consumer organisation.

The study also showed little appetite for insects and lab-grown meat – 10% and 13% respectively said they are willing to cut out meat and replace it with such products.

Plant-based burgers were slightly more popular, especially if they are not produced using genetically modified organisms (33% v 14%).

However, “traditional vegetarian foods” are the preferred substitute – 60% are willing to eschew meat and eat stews, beans and pulses instead.

“Whilst there is a lot of hype around innovative products such as insects, lab-grown meat and algae – many of which are not yet even on the EU market – consumers seem to have little appetite for these ‘high-tech’ solutions,” BEUC noted. “As other alternative protein sources such as pulses (beans, peas and lentils) are likely to have better consumer acceptance, their production and increased consumption should be fostered.”

BEUC also found an encouraging two thirds open to changing their eating habits to protect the environment. However, price, unclear information and limited availability of “sustainable options” were all seen as barriers.

Last month, the European Commission presented its blueprint for sustainable food and farming. The “Farm to Fork” strategy, which has been put at the heart of the European Green Deal, included targets to reduce the “use and risk of chemical pesticides” by 50% by 2030 and for 25% of total farmland to be under organic systems by the same date (a three-fold increase).

However, the stance on reducing meat consumption was reportedly “softened”. It has recommended restrictions on advertising cheap meat.

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