Over the past few years, plant-based meat has risen in popularity in the Netherlands. Vegan burgers joints mushroomed in every Dutch city. In December 2018, consumer goods giant Unilever acquired The Vegetarian Butcher, a Dutch alt-meat producer. In May, vegan company Beyond Meat announced its intention to open a production plant in the Netherlands. Last summer, market research firm IRI published a report stating that the supermarket sales of plant-based meat in the country went up 51% over the previous two years while meat sales went down by 9%.
Nevertheless, a new study by Wageningen University concluded that meat consumption in the Netherlands is on the rise for the first time since 2009. The research was commissioned by Dutch animal rights charity Wakker Dier.
According to the study, in 2018, Dutch consumers ate on average 77.2 kg of meat per person, a 0.8% increase over the 76.6 kg consumed in 2017.
As reported by Dutch news organization NOS, the research measured meat consumption in terms of carcass weight, inclusive of bones. This means that roughly half of the 77.2 kilos of meat actually ended up in the stomach. 500 kinds of products were considered, including processed meats in pizzas and salads.
"This is very disappointing news. Eating less meat seems popular, but the reality is apparently more difficult," Wakker Dier’s spokesperson Anne Hilhorst told NOS.
But how can we reconcile this new study with the findings of IRI’s research? “Both can be true,” said Hans Dagevos, one of the researchers at Wageningen University. IRI looked at supermarket sales while Wageningen University also looked at meat consumption in restaurants and bars.
"That has a huge influence. The number of tourists in our country is increasing every year. It is known that restaurants that attract a lot of tourists have a lot of hamburgers and satay on the menu," added Dagevos.
So, are tourists the actual culprits? Difficult to say. What is certain is that despite the increased sales of plant-based meat and the great deal of financial and media attention that vegan patties attracted over the past couple of years, reducing global meat consumption remains a challenge.
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