Finland loses appetite for meat

Meat free eating is increasingly popular in the Nordic country as the cost of animal products soars

Vegan products on display at a supermarket in Helsinki, November 2019

Is meat Finnished in the home of lihapullat and makkara? Well, meatballs and sausages may not be off the menu in Finland just yet, but a recent report suggests Finns are eating far fewer animal products than they used to – and that figure is likely to drop still further as prices climb.

The Pellervo Economic Research institute (PTT), an independent economics body, calculates that the rising cost of meat products will far outstrip that of food in the Nordic country. Next year food prices will rise by 1.4 per cent, it predicts, compared with 1.1 per cent this year. Some meat products, on the other hand, are expected to climb by 4 per cent, driven by increased exports to Asian countries hit by the swine fever epidemic.

If more expensive meat means more people choosing healthier and more environmentally friendly plant-based foods, then the PTT had even more good news to impart: the cost of fruit and veg has recently started to drop thanks to better growing conditions this year.

Explaining the decrease, the PTT said meat free eating was increasingly on people’s radars, as numbers of tasty and nutritious meat alternatives appeared on supermarket shelves. They are consuming more vegetables and are keener to eat more healthily for themselves, as well as for the planet. “Increasing health and environmental awareness in consumer decision-making has rapidly increased the market for plant-based products,” it said.

Green politicians in the capital will be cheering the news, having this year successful passed a bill to cut Helsinki’s meat consumption in half by 2050. Finland is also a trend-setter in meat free military matters – its soldiers enjoy at least two plant-based meals a week – and was the first country in the world to sample the McDonald’s McVegan burger.

Although meat is still a staple of the Finnish diet – a recent survey found 80 per cent of Finns eat meat at least once a week – it’s clear attitudes are changing. Pork has become increasingly unpopular in recent years. Beef – the most environmentally damaging meat – is also falling from favour, with consumption of dairy products projected to fall too. The growth of Finland’s most popular meat, chicken, is about to halt, according to the PTT, something that is set to “shak[e] the meat market”.

It added: “While consumer prices of vegetables are falling, the evolution of the price relationship between meat and vegetables confirms the projected change in consumption,” the report explained.