Most Canadians still prefer taste of beef to plant-based alternatives, but peer-to-peer food shaming on the rise

Curling teams Koe and Homan preparing and cooking steaks on a barbecue in China. (Canada Beef Inc.)

Through the pandemic numerous food perspectives were subject to a shift, with more people cooking at home and grocery scarcity showing up for the first time for many. Just ahead of the pandemic, Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein company, went public to much fanfare.

The Canadian Meat Council has, of course, been watching the plant-based food trend closely, and a recent follow up survey suggests there are some real wins for the meat sector, but some new challenges ahead when it comes to consumer preference.

David Coletto is the founder and CEO of Abacus Data, the company that conducted a survey which collected Canadian’s perceptions regarding beef and plant-based alternatives. The survey, conducted in 2022, was compared against data collected pre-pandemic in 2019 to establish how perceptions regarding meatless “meat” may have shifted through the global crisis.

He says although there are people who are considering reducing the amount of meat they consume, overall it’s not a significant increase at all.

“Despite the fact that the marketplace is getting more choices for consumers, there are more alternatives, they aren’t seemingly taking effect. And people aren’t fundamentally changing their diet away from meat and animal-based protein,” shares Coletto, adding that 90 per cent of Canadians say they greatly enjoy the taste of animal protein.

Coletto shared his findings with members and attendees at the┬áCanadian Meat Council’s 100th Annual General Meeting, to which he says the survey results were humbly appreciated.

Although the results were favourable for the animal protein sector, Coletto says a gap in behaviour, or experiences, becomes more apparent as you break the results down by age.

“Younger Canadians are much more open to meat alternatives and are much more aware of, and mindful of, the impact their choices could make on say things like the environment and climate change and on the welfare of animals. And so, it’s again, not that we’re seeing overwhelming numbers of those under the age of 30 choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet, but they do seem to be more conscious of it, and asking questions,” says Coletto.

Furthermore, the survey revealed that Gen Z Canadians, those born between 1997 and 2012, were more likely to experience some sort of peer pressure in the way of judgement or criticism if they were to consume meat. Coletto says about 20 per cent, or one in five Canadians, within that demographic said they have been guilted or shamed for eating beef.

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