Study: Germans still love their meat and eat plenty of it

Germans consume plenty of meat and there are concerns about future generations' ability to cook healthily. [Valters Krontals/Flickr]

The Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection has published its latest nutrition report, detailing Germans eating habits. EURACTIV Germany reports.

A majority of Germans continue to eat more meat than the European average. According to the ministry’s report, which Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt (CSU) presented in Berlin, 83% of respondents said that they would eat meat several times a week.

In particular, men cannot seem to go without their schnitzel, salami and steak. Some 47% of men eat meat on a daily basis, whereas for women, the figure is 22%. Only 3% of respondents said that they never eat meat. In terms of vegetarians, 6% of women said that they never eat meat, but only 1% of men said the same. Germany finds itself topping the European table in terms of meat consumption along with Denmark, Spain and Portugal. Manfred Güllner, founder of the forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis, said, “Not a great deal has changed.”

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The results of the report show that Germans’ consumption of meat and ready-made products has stayed rather constant, although 70% of respondents said that they believe that their diet is healthy and balanced. While nutrition experts advise that individuals consume a maximum of 300-600 grams of meat a week, about 30 kg a year, the statistics show that the actual figure is somewhere around 61 kg, in addition to the consumption of pasta, which a third of those surveyed said was their preferred meal. Furthermore, around 30 kg of each German’s yearly intake comes from animal feed, industrially-recycled products or ends up in the bin.

Ready-meals are also very popular in Germany at the moment, with around a third of the respondents saying that they enjoy, for example, frozen pizza. This is particularly true of the 14-18 year old bracket.

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Christian Schmidt sees these habits as a threat to health, the environment and animal welfare. He warned that there is a danger that a “competence deficit” could emerge among young people and their ability to eat healthily. “Diet must be prioritised, particularly because of its high social cost,” said Schmidt. He added that awareness regarding food and a balanced diet is low among children and adolescents.

Schmidt is now planning to bring “nutrition education” into schools and will soon discuss the subject with the culture minister. “Later this year, we’ll roll out concepts for better education at a federal level,” said the minister.

Certain European countries use the traffic light rating system to illustrate nutritional value of products, which Schmidt still believes is a useful way to communicate the fat, sugar and salt content of foodstuffs.

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On some levels, however, the study showed that Germans do have a growing interest in what they put on the dinner table and the will to learn more about nutritional value is on the up. For example, one in five respondents said that they use their smartphone while at the supermarket in order to learn more about a product, while 25% said that they use internet forums to do the same while at home.

Furthermore, people are more willing to pay more for their meat products if it means improved animal welfare, with 90% saying that they would be willing to pay up to €6.50 more per kilo for that assurance. Three-quarters said that they prefer local or regional products. Germans, in comparison to other European nations, spend less on their meat. For example, in 2010, Italians consumed roughly the same amount of meat as their Teutonic neighbours, spending €537 each, whereas the Germans only spent €396.

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