One-third of young Canadians consider giving up beef

A new survey by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in partnership with Angus Reid found that while beef is still highly popular among Canadians, consumer have their doubts.

The survey found that 92 per cent of Canadians eat beef and two-thirds (65 per cent) eat beef at least once a week. Most respondents (69 per cent) cited taste as the most common reason for eating beef, while 12 per cent do so for lifestyle and social status and 10 per cent for health reasons.

However, there was a notable trend among Canadians, particularly the younger demographic, of mixed feelings on beef.

When asked if they have thought about cutting beef from their diets in the last 12 months, 25 per cent said yes. That figure rises to nearly one-third (31 per cent) among respondents aged under 35.

“Canadians remain committed to beef, but there are clouds on the horizon,” says Sylvain Charlebois, director of Dalhousie’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab. “Certainly with the younger generations, they are thinking differently about animal proteins and in particular, beef. They appear to be influenced by health and the environment, which are factors that we were expecting. But the one that has crept up a lot compared to past years is price.”

Nearly half of Canadians (47 per cent) believe the number of people cutting beef from their diets will increase in years to come, and 44 per cent want to see that trend.

Of Canadians who have thought about cutting beef from their diets, over half (53 per cent) think it would be good for their health. 46 per cent considered cutting out beef for the environment and 32 per cent are concerned about animal welfare and cruelty. 31 per cent also cited price as a factor.

“I think a lot of Canadians have been spooked by meat-counter economics,” says Charlebois. “And it’s not just beef—it’s the trifecta of meat with chicken and pork as well… People are thinking about options because the cost to buy meat is pretty significant compared to just a few years ago.”

Overall, respondents were asked about top influencing factors that would get consumers to cut out beef. Both price (49 per cent) and health concerns (49 per cent) were top choices.

40 per cent also expect vegetable protein options to get better with time and could tempt some to cut out beef. Among the 35-and-under demographic, 54 per cent expect vegetable protein options to get better over the next few years.

RELATED: Canadians struggling with eating habits during COVID-19

Given the high cost of meat, Charlebois says the industry will have to build a case for the younger generations to spend money on beef. “I’m starting to think this will be the most significant challenge for the beef and cattle industry.”

Charlebois also expects grocers to see more consumers looking for options. “I’ve always believed that eventually there’s going to be a protein section at the grocery store, which will include vegetable proteins, not just animal,” he says. “And you’re starting to see that more and more… You want to make sure your customers are aware of all your protein options, and that they are readily available.”

Access the full report here.