Germans switch sausage for soya over green, health concerns

Wed Apr 29, 2015 1:04pm EDT
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By Emma Thomasson

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans, known for their love of sausages, are eating less meat and more vegetarian food as concerns grow about health, animal welfare and the environmental cost of livestock farming.

Meat consumption is stable or declining in most developed countries but the shift is particularly striking in Germany, Europe's biggest pork producer and home to 1,500 varieties of sausage including Berlin's favorite, the "Curry-Wurst."

The change in eating habits is steady rather than spectacular, but the food industry is facing up to the fact that the sausage - and meat in general - will no longer hold such a revered place in German national culture.

Germans are not about to ditch their habits and traditions. The Greens party stirred an outcry in 2013 by proposing that canteens for public sector workers should serve only vegetarian meals one day a week. Also, while the large Muslim minority avoids pork, other meats such as lamb remain popular with its members.

Nevertheless, overall meat consumption dropped last year to 60.1 kgs per person from 62.8 in 2011. While that was well above the global average, it is still about half that eaten by the average American.

The trend is likely to continue in a country that has a small but growing community of vegetarians; market data firm Euromonitor predicts German fresh meat consumption will fall 2.9 percent by 2019, after a dip of 1.2 percent in 2014, the biggest recorded drop in the world apart from recession-hit Greece.

"People are tired of the many scandals and there is great interest in how animals are treated and what impact my consumption has on other parts of the world," said Christina Chemnitz, agriculture expert at the Heinrich Boell Institute, a think tank linked to the Greens party in Germany.

Germans' worries are wide, ranging from antibiotics in meat and the welfare effects of large-scale "factory farming" to the felling of rain forest to make way for crops grown not for humans but to fatten up livestock.   Continued...

Heinrich Boell Stiftung agriculture expert Christine Chemnitz poses for a photograph in Berlin, Germany, April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos