Scientists Hans Dagevos and Jantine Voordouw carried out two surveys and separated the Dutch population into segments depending on how often they ate meat. Although 18% define themselves as heavy meat-eaters, 19% say that they eat meat-free main meals at least three times a week.
Meat reduction is on the rise in the Netherlands, and enjoying meat-free meals once or twice a week is becoming normal practice for a large sector of the population. The surveys were conducted two years apart, in 2009 and 2011, and between those dates the proportion of people who said that they ate at least one meat-free meal per week rose from 69% to 77%.
The report, called ‘Sustainability and meat consumption: is reduction realistic?’, concludes that “eating meatless meals appears to be part of the ordinary food-consumption practices of a sizeable number of people”.
It also emphasises the importance of meat reduction from an ecological perspective. “Meat is critical with respect to sustainability because meat products are among the most energy-intensive and ecologically burdensome foods,” say Dagevos and Voordouw.
The report recommends that the Dutch government takes steps to encourage the growing flexitarian trend. “Given the enormous environmental impact of animal-protein consumption and the apparent sympathy of consumers for meat reduction, it is surprising that politicians and policy makers demonstrate little, if any, interest in strategies to reduce meat consumption and to encourage more sustainable eating practices.”