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Young are quitting meat

Younger Canadians are far more likely to be vegetarians or vegans than older generations, according to a survey that a researcher says is among the first of its kind.

The poll, conducted for Dalhousie University professor Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, reported that 7.1 per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians, and 2.3 per cent consider themselves vegans — levels he says were not previously known.

"I'm not aware of a scientific study around vegetarian and vegan rates in Canada specifically," said Charlebois, adding he believes those levels have generally stayed same over the past decade, based on U.S. and European polls and literature.

"As we were collecting data, we started to realize that this is rich data that will help us understand where veganism and vegetarianism is going in the country."

The survey suggested people under the age of 35 were three times more likely to consider themselves vegetarians or vegans than people 49 or older.

And in what Charlebois characterized as "mind-blowing," the report also showed that of the Canadians who identified as vegetarians and vegans, more than half were under the age of 35.

"Those are really, really high numbers," said Charlebois, whose research topics include food distribution and food policy.

"Even though we believe the overall rates have not gone up, they could go up over the next couple of decades as a result of seeing such a high number of young consumers committing to speciality diets... That will actually impact food demand over the next few decades and I suspect the food industry will need to adapt."

Charlebois said there are a number of reasons young people are committing to vegetarianism or veganism, including reducing their environmental footprint, concern over animal welfare and the industrialization of agriculture, and concern for their own health.

"A lot of studies are actually discouraging consumers from eating red meats specifically. Even the World Health Organization has made processed meats a category one product, which means it could cause cancer, at the same level as asbestos," said Charlebois, who was aided by research assistant Caitlin Cunningham.



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