For years, Germans have been eating less and less meat. Per person, 52 kilograms were eaten last year, as the Federal Statistical Office announced on Wednesday. This is around 4.2 kilograms less than in 2021. In a ten-year comparison, consumption has fallen by almost 15 percent and has reached its lowest level since calculations began in 1989. The biggest loser is pork. While there were only minimal losses in poultry and beef, every German ate an average of about 2.8 kilograms less pork last year. Similar to consumption, the production of meat has also shrunk – by 8 percent compared to the previous year.

Anne Kokenbrink

Editor in the economy

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Does the veggie industry benefit from this because consumers are increasingly turning to alternative products? The assumption is obvious, but can only be confirmed to a limited extent. Even though the production of meat alternatives increased by 2022.6 percent to around 5,104 tons in 000, it grew much more slowly than in 2021 – at that time it was 17 percent. The quantities demanded are also manageable: According to data service provider Statista, sales of meat alternatives in retail in 2021 were around 400 grams per inhabitant.

Meat substitutes are not the main cause

According to forecasts, it is expected to grow to 2027.1 kilograms by 38. Even though it is assumed that sales could have doubled from 2021 to 2022 to 0.8 kilograms per person, meat substitutes do not seem to be the main cause of people giving up conventional meat. According to Klaus Martin Fischer, partner at the consulting firm Ebner Stolz, the boom in substitute products is over. According to him, it is "obvious that some 'dark clouds' are gathering in the hitherto sunshine-drenched 'plant meat sky'". The attractiveness of the "new" is wearing off, and it is losing its appeal. Instead, objective criteria such as price, taste or added value would become more important.

Figures from the market research company GfK underline that although more and more Germans are trying meat alternatives and putting them on the grill on a trial basis, they rarely become regular customers. According to Fischer, customers in the supermarket mainly reach for cheaper chicken or instead for conventional foods such as vegetables and cereals. Their per capita consumption has increased significantly in recent years. This is probably one of the reasons why meat alternatives lead a niche existence: At 42 billion euros, the value of meat products is almost 80 times the value of meat alternatives. In terms of volume, they account for around 2.7 percent of sales of meat, sausage and poultry, according to the Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI).

Mechthild Cloppenburg, market expert for the meat industry at AMI, explains the fact that meat consumption has fallen so sharply with customers' reluctance to buy. Many lower and middle income groups have saved money when buying meat – especially for the main type of meat, pork. Beef, on the other hand, is a higher-quality food in terms of price, which consumers would eat less often anyway. According to the Federal Statistical Office, prices for meat products in retail rose by almost 2022 percent in 15 compared to the previous year. As a result, consumers bought less of it: According to GfK, the purchase volumes of meat products fell by 2022.8 percent in 4. It should be taken into account that after the end of the Corona restrictions, more citizens were eating meat outside the home again. Unlike meat, meat substitute prices fell by 0.5 percent, according to the AMI.

"Pork has an image problem"

The fact that pork, of all things, ends up less frequently on the plate of Germans has a central reason for consultant Fischer, apart from the price. "Pork has an image problem," he says. The menu of the younger generation has changed, the trend is towards several, short meals that are easy to prepare. Pork is not so well suited for this. In terms of sustainability and health, pigs often perform worse than poultry, for example.

For the coming year, AMI's Cloppenburg expects the downward trend in consumption to weaken slightly. The consumption of beef could even increase slightly because the catering industry is using more fine cuts again. Possible price reductions could boost consumption. Fischer expects an increasingly dynamic downward trend in meat. The market for alternative products, on the other hand, will grow, but will not trigger a revolution. "Realistically, I estimate the market share in the future to be comparable to the organic segment. 10 to 20 percent of the product segments are feasible with plant-based alternatives," he says.

This is one of the reasons why the meat industry in Germany is facing increasing changes. Heike Harstick, Managing Director of the German Meat Industry Association, emphasizes that the industry has long since accepted the challenges and is "in the midst of transformation". "Changes in animal husbandry are important," she says, but also points to the world market, where the signs of growth are pointing to meat consumption.