Tuesday 01 December 2020

Meat consumption rises, Dutch now eat 200 million chickens a year

Chickens on a factory farm. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Meat consumption went up for the second year in a row in 2019, but the increase appears to be down to flexitarians and tourists, research by Wageningen Economic research for animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier has shown.

‘This is a very worrying trend at a time when every problem we face requires less meat consumption, from climate change to nitrogen emissions, deforestation, the effects on health and last but not least the treatment of the animals themselves,’ Anne Hilhorst of Wakker Dier said.

The Dutch ate an average of 39 kilos of meat per head of the population last year, a rise of several hundred grammes on 2018.

Chicken is the main driver of last year’s increase and the Dutch now eat an estimated 200 million chickens a year. ‘And those chickens have almost all had a rotten life in crowded, closed buildings,’ Hilhorst said.

The trend contradicts the popularity of certain food trends which favour less meat. But according to Wageningen researcher Hans Dagevos that the increase in meat consumption is predominantly down to tourists and occasional meat eaters or flexitarians who go to restaurants and fastfood outlets.

‘It looks as if the flexitarians do their best at home but forget their good intentions when they go out,’ Dagevos said.


Dagevos and his colleagues expect that next year’s figures will clarify the extent of the effect on meat consumption from tourists and flexitarians, seeing that many restaurants have had to close their doors in 2020 because of coronavirus.

‘If meat consumption outside the home is the determining factor we should perhaps focus more on helping flexitarians,’ Hilhorst said.

The official recommendation in the Netherlands is to eat no more than of 500 grams of red meat a week. People who eat more stand a bigger chance of a stroke, diabetes type 2 and cancer, Dutch dietary advice centre Voedingscentrum says.

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