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Many Finns want to trim meat consumption, survey finds

In the 1950s Finns ate an average of 25kg of meat per year, but nowadays the annual amount has ballooned to about 80kg.

File photo of person eating a hamburger. Image: AOP
Yle News

Meat dishes are often the centrepieces at mealtime in Finland but many residents seem to want to cut down on their meat consumption, according to an Yle survey.

Around 44 percent of respondents to the survey said they wanted to cut down on the amount of meat they consume.

Meanwhile, around 39 percent said they did not want to reduce their meat intake while 17 percent did not have an opinion on the matter.

The consumption of meat in Finland has steadily increased since the 1950s. At the beginning of that decade, Finns consumed about 25kg of meat products per year. To date, that figure has grown to about 80kg of meat per person annually.

According to nutritional recommendations, nearly 80 percent of men and 26 percent of women in Finland eat too much meat.

People who eat excessive amounts of meat, cold cuts and other meat products are at higher risk of suffering from colon cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease than those who consume less of it.

Professor of nutrition science at the University of Helsinki, Mikael Fogelholm, said that many residents in Finland should cut back on eating animal products.

"The link between colon cancer and red meat is clear. But when it comes to the other diseases, the causes can be linked to unhealthy lifestyles in general," Fogelholm said, adding that there are no disadvantages to cutting back on meat.

"There is already so much protein in today's diet," he said.

Changing attitudes

While meat consumption remains relatively high, researchers noted a minor shift in dietary trends in 2019 when meat consumption decreased by about two percent.

According to the survey, age and gender play a major role in the attitudes toward carnivorous habits.

Around 70 percent of the survey's respondents aged 18-24 said they felt Finns should cut back on meat in general, while only 30 percent of people between the ages of 65-79 thought similarly.

Sharp differences were also seen among men and women. Just over half of female respondents said that people should reduce the amount of meat they consume, while only 38 percent of men thought so.

Expert: Meat 'too cheap'

Research professor Minna Kaljonen from the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke) said that one reason Finns eat so much meat is because of its relatively low price.

"Meat has become too cheap and too easy to use, which makes it too easy to be used as an everyday food," Kaljonen said, pointing to popular ground beef and chicken filets in particular.

She said that prices consumers pay for meat products don't correspond to production costs and also do not take into account the environmental costs.

However, Kaljonen said that people don't have to give up meat entirely, but instead reduce the quantities they eat.

Meanwhile, Jukka Rantala, an expert at the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), said that it would benefit everyone if meat cost a little more than it does.

"The meat producers are entrepreneurs who take risks and make big investments towards ensuring meat production will continue in Finland in the future. They should be better compensated for their work," Rantala said.

The survey, carried out by polling firm Taloustutkimus, queried about 1,024 people about their meat consumption habits. The survey was carried out during 19-22 February and had a margin error of three percentage points in either direction.

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