Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Cost cooling Kiwis’ great love of meat

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When it came to motivations for reducing meat consumption, “lack of affordability and health concerns are their key drivers”.
Affordability is one of the key reasons people avoid purchasing meat.
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More than nine out of 10 New Zealanders are meat-eaters, a survey has found – but almost 50% of Kiwis have reduced their meat consumption in response to issues such as cost and health.

The results of the online survey, carried out in December 2021 – along with an associated review led by Crown Research Institute AgResearch – also shows high awareness of meat alternatives, but a “very low” level of consumption of those alternative products.

“Overall, the outlook for meat consumption and the meat industry in New Zealand is positive and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future,” says the recently published study from AgResearch scientists and Lincoln University researchers.

The online survey of 1061 New Zealand consumers found that for meat-eaters “the taste of meat is the king decider for purchase and consumption”; with 71% rating taste a “very important” attribute when purchasing, followed by price (55%) and use-by date (51%).

Chicken is the main type of meat regularly consumedd, accounting for about 33% of the meals in an average week, followed by beef (22%), fish (13%), pork (10%), lamb (8%), and processed meat (7%).

Plant-based meat products, venison, game/hunted meat, and other meat types made up only a minor portion in participants’ weekly diets (less than 2%).

Over the previous year almost half of survey respondents (47%) had lowered their meat consumption; most of them (69%) had consumed less meat overall and the rest (31%) only lowered their consumption of particular meat products.

When it came to motivations for reducing meat consumption, “lack of affordability and health concerns are their key drivers”.

 Survey participants were also asked to indicate the top three factors or words that they considered important to define sustainability for meat production. The most frequent terms include “animal welfare”, “environmental impact” and “grass-fed”, closely followed by “carbon/GHG emissions”, “free range” and “farming methods”.

Consumers acknowledged the importance of sustainability linked to care for animals and the environment and were willing to pay a premium (17–24%) for a range of meat attributes associated with these social aspects.

 Although the respondents’ awareness of alternative proteins or meat alternatives was high, their consumption of these products was rated as very low compared to what is reported in other countries.

 AgResearch senior scientist Cameron Craigie said the headline survey result on omnivorous diets is not necessarily surprising, given the value and tradition of meat eating in NZ. 

Affordability issues are likely to have remained to the fore, given the higher inflation since the survey was completed, with April 2023 meat, poultry and fish prices up 9.5% on the NZ food price index compared to April 2022.

“The survey is a snapshot in time, but for us as researchers, it does help us focus on the research that addresses the issues that people care most about. Clearly taste is a key factor for meat eaters and that’s why we are doing research to help producers maximise that.”

The value or impacts of meat in a diet have recently been the subject of several reports internationally, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stating that “meat, eggs and milk offer crucial sources of much-needed nutrients which cannot easily be obtained from plant-based foods”.

Craigie said a discussion based on the scientific evidence is important when it comes to health or sustainability.

“On the sustainability front, we know this is something consumers are concerned about, and we are working with farmers to help provide them tools and practices to reduce their environmental impact and meet targets around things like water quality and climate change.”

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