By Alanna Ketler, Collective Evolution
- The Facts: Meat-Free diets are on the rise in Canada, more and more are switching over to a plant-based diet. The meat, egg, and dairy industries have no choice but to adapt or face potentially going out of business as these numbers continue to grow.
- Reflect On: This is a great example of how awareness creates change. The more aware we are of the environmental, health and ethical concerns from consuming this diet, the less we will choose to do it. Spread the word, be part of the change.
A study recently released shows that nearly 10 percent of the population of Canada now identifies as being vegetarian or vegan. This is forcing restaurants and meat, egg, and dairy industries, to consider new approaches to a dwindling market.
According to research from Dalhousie University, there are 2.3 million vegetarians in Canada, which is up 900,000 from a survey taken 15 years ago and another 850,000 people consider themselves vegan. Combined, these numbers add up to 9.4 percent of the Canadian population.
It’s not surprising that we are seeing these numbers rise at an accelerated rate. With more awareness being spread in regards to the ethical, environmental and health concerns from consuming a diet that is rich in animal products, people are starting to take responsibility for their actions and do their part to opt out of the aspects of our current system that are not in alignment with our planet any longer.
Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie says that the most “disturbing fact” for meat-producers is that the majority of this percentage of Canadians are under the age of 35. He says that this means that the numbers of vegetarians and vegans will continue to rise as the plant-based people of today become a bigger part of Canadian society.
“Likely they’ll be raising children the way that they’re eating themselves,” he told CTV’s Your Morning.
According to Charlebois, there are a few reasons that more and more people are choosing to go meat-free, one of the most predominant being concerns about animal welfare. He believes that when people have spent little time on the actual farms themselves and make their decisions based on the footage they have seen of animal abuse, that this can influence their perceptions of eating meat and other animal products.
Charlebois also mentioned that the other factors include the rising cost of beef and other meat, environmental concerns, and personal health.
“I can’t remember the last time I read a study suggesting that we should eat more meat. The scientific evidence seems to be pretty strong encouraging people to eat more vegetable proteins,” he said.
The Rise Of The Vegan
Meat and animal product-free restaurants are popping up all over the nation in a wise attempt to cater not only to vegans and vegetarians but also to those who are making an effort at lowering their consumption of animal products.
We are seeing more and more meat-free options becoming available even at larger chain restaurants. Popular Canadian fast food restaurant A&W, has recently released their “Beyond Meat Burger,” which includes a vegan patty made mostly from peas and rice and other plant-based ingredients. This burger has become popular for meat and non-meat-eaters alike, and from personal experience, it is delicious!
Even though people are making this decision to give up the meat for the aforementioned reasons, particularly health, Charlebois does caution however that the move away from meat can threaten the economy because of Canada’s large agricultural sector. Combined, the country’s poultry, egg and red meat industries produced $23.4 billion worth of goods in 2017 according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
After meeting with cattle farmers and meat producers, Charlebois says that it seems like the industry sees plant-based eating as a fad or even an enemy and not a reality of a new lifestyle and long-term eating habits of Canadians.
“I’m not entirely sure the industry appreciates what’s happening,” he said.
Charlebois feels that meat producers should “befriend the enemy” and somehow find a way to jump on board with the changing dietary preferences rather than revisiting change which may inevitably cause them to go out of business in the same way we are seeing dairy farms close down by the hundreds in the United States.
Vote With Your Dollar
Again, this is a prime example of how voting with your dollar is one of the most effective ways to create lasting change. The more aware people become about the health, environmental and ethical concerns regarding the consumption of meat and animal products, the more they will opt out. This leaves these industries no choice but to adapt with the times or to eventually face going out of business.
My guess is that the growing numbers of vegetarians and vegans is not a fad, but is a general rise in awareness and the initiative for better health for our environment and ourselves. Switching back to eating a ton of meat and animal products doesn’t really make any sense, and would show that we are regressing rather than progressing as a species.
Even though these growing numbers of non-meat eaters poses a threat to the economy, it also provides room for a whole new, plant-based economy to emerge and continue growing. When one door closes, another opens. We are living in exciting times of transformation, we can get with it, or resist it, but it’s happening either way. We have a choice to be a part of the solution or a part of the problem with every choice we make.