Brazil gets a taste for meat reducing

Nearly 30 per cent now say they are cutting back on or have cut out animal products

Brazilian flag against blue and cloudy sky and fruit and veg on blue background

A survey of 9,000 people in South America’s largest country has found that Brazil’s traditionally meat-heavy diet is undergoing something of a meat free revolution. According to the findings, almost 30 per cent of Brazilians now say they are cutting back on the amount of meat they eat, or are already vegetarian.

The survey was conducted by the Washington-based Good Food Institute (GFI), which works with companies trying to tap into an area of increasing interest to investors and diners alike: creating meat alternatives. And in a country associated with beef and livestock farming, with a population of more than 200 million people, they have found a burgeoning market for meat free eating.

“Nearly 30 percent of respondents reported that they are moving toward reducing their consumption of animal products or are already vegetarian,” said the GFI. “This indicates that the Brazilian plant-based market has a potential reach of 60 million interested eaters.” More than three-quarters of those surveyed – including those who weren’t yet cutting back on their meat consumption – agreed it was a “positive step” to be eating fewer animal products. The non-meat-reducers said they hadn’t yet made the leap because of habit and the “perceived practicality” of products derived from animals.

Brazil is both one of the greenest and least green countries in the world. Green because it contains more than two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, whose trees sequester huge amounts of carbon and pump out more than a fifth of the planet’s oxygen; not green at all because vast tracts of that vital global resource are being razed to the ground as part of an increasing drive to farm cattle and growing soy for livestock feed. The election last month of Jair Bolsonaro as the new president has caused more environmental concerns. Dubbed “the Trump of the Tropics”, the ultra-nationalist has said that he wants to relax protections for the Amazon to allow for more logging.

Ironically, given the planet-wide repercussions of the destruction of the rainforest, most of those surveyed said they were cutting back on their meat consumption to protect their own health, rather than that of the planet. Animal welfare was also a concern. A range of surveys in recent years has established that overconsumption of meat, particularly red and processed meat, can lead to a range of health issues, including cancer and heart disease. Meanwhile, a survey last month found that meat consumption is a major driver behind biodiversity loss, and is a very real threat to human life on Earth.

“We inquired about the motivations for people who were either reducing or eliminating animal products,” the report said. “For both vegetarians and reduce-tarians, health was the primary factor, followed by concern for animals. About 50 percent of vegetarians and 70 percent of reduce-tarians are cutting back on animal products to be healthier or to address allergies and intolerances.”