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2021-02-01

Commentary: The Acceptance of Alternative Proteins, by Thomas Vogelsang, Managing Director, National Association of the German Meat Industry e.V.

Meat is an essential and particularly high-quality component of a healthy and balanced diet for mankind. In Asia in particular, meat consumption is currently still rising, while demand in Europe is largely stable despite a current reluctance to eat pork. However, there have been significant changes in eating habits, such as a steady increase in out-of-home consumption.
In addition, agricultural production criteria such as regionality, animal welfare or organic production are becoming increasingly important for many consumers. At the same time, there is a group of consumers who are turning to alternative sources of protein. This may also be an expression of an unprecedented range of goods and great prosperity among the population in the western industrialized nations. In addition, the younger generation, "Generation Z," has grown up in a time when meat had abandoned its role as a luxury product. However, it is not up to the manufacturers to judge these attitudes. Rather, it is their very own task to meet the partial changes in consumer demand with appropriate offerings so that they can continue to successfully hold their own in the market in the long term.

For example, numerous companies in the German meat products industry already produce vegetarian or vegan meat substitutes as a matter of course. This market is developing very dynamically in Germany, even if the share of these products in the overall market is still small. Whether plant-based food, in vitro meat or insects will be successful as a basis for meat substitute products in the long term, on the other hand, remains to be seen. In Europe at least, the processes are still largely unknown, and people are rather skeptical about this technology. The rejection of genetic engineering in food and the very restrained willingness to vaccinate despite the risk of life-threatening COVID infection are examples of the reluctance of many people to embrace technologies that are foreign to them - especially when it comes to the absorption of substances into their own bodies. Moreover, the great popularity of meat is deeply rooted in archaic human emotions. Whether technical alternatives can build up a comparable emotional standing is completely open at present.

Against the backdrop of the current pandemic, eating habits have forcibly shifted to private kitchens because restaurants and schools are closed and major events are not taking place. In the lockdown, many people may have discovered cooking and baking for themselves and, as a result, approach food with more appreciation in the future. However, consumption habits have been deeply formed since childhood and change remarkably little. It can therefore be assumed that the situation will quickly return to normal after the Corona pandemic. After all, many cozy barbecues with friends will have to be made up for again.