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Poll: One in five Finns cutting down on meat

A new study by food research group Foodwest shows that a third of Finns surveyed say they at least occasionally leave meat out of their weekly diets. The reasons are now more wide-ranging than in previous polls.

Vegetarian diets are slowly gaining ground. Image: Hanne Leiwo/Yle

Finnish people are leaving meat products out of their diets more often than before. A study by industry research organisation Foodwest indicates that the national trend has remained strong over the last five years.

"In 2012 we found that meat consumption is going down, and the tendency is ongoing," says market researcher Emmi Penttilä. "Five years ago one in ten respondents had cut down on meat; now it is one in five."

New reasons for trying out vegetarian fare have appeared in that time, too. Health, ecology and ethics are still the most common reasons for shunning dishes with animal flesh; but many are now preferring vegetarian or vegan options based on personal taste alone, Foodwest reports.

"This year more people told us they were motivated to cut down on meat due to the sheer pleasure of eating vegetarian food," Penttilä says. "Personal taste in this may in fact have little to do with social or global factors."

Easy, available veggies

Finnish grocery aisles have increased their supply of vegetarian and vegan options, recipes for meatless meals abound and the media, too, is carrying more stories on vegetarianism than before.

"More and more people feel that adding vegetarian food to their diets brings variety and that preparing such dishes has become easier," Penttilä says.

The new Foodwest study shows that about one third of respondents consciously choose to not eat meat on certain days.

"When someone learns to make vegetarian food, they realise it isn't that hard and that wholesome meals can be put together using only vegetables."

Meat substitute products such as pulled oats and soybean-based items also continue to gain ground.

Nation of omnivores

Even if the fresh results show that vegetables are now more commonly featured on domestic dinner tables, the number of people who profess to not eating any animal-based foods (i.e. vegans) still make up just a few percent of the population.

The Natural Resources Institute (Luke) reports that Finnish meat-eating grew by 2 percent in 2015-2016, when Finns consumed about 81 kg of meat per capita. The rise, says Luke, ties in with the popularity of poultry products.

Meat lobby Lihatiedotus puts the amount of people eating meat at 93 percent. While more non-meat-eaters are showing up in statistics, the number of daily or nearly daily meat-eaters has also gone up.

Young urban women are the most likely to cut meat down or out of their diets, while middle-aged or older men are the most likely to eat animal products, the Foodwest study found.

The Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra) commissioned a previous survey in April that asked 2,000 Finnish residents about their attitudes and behaviour with regard to sustainable consumption. Although the respondents were largely aware of the environmental impact of their food choices, the poll found that just one in three made efforts to minimise the global footprint of their diet.

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