Report finds more Canadians turning to plant-based proteins

CNS Canada — Canadians are showing more and more interest in reducing meat consumption while increasing purchases of plant-based proteins, according to data from the latest Food Price Report.

The report, prepared by the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University, predicted a 1.5 to 3.5 per cent increase overall in the average Canadian food bill in 2019.

At the high end, that would translate into an increase of $411 in food expenses for the average family of four.

Vegetable prices are forecast to increase by four to six per cent, according to the report. However, meat prices are forecast to decline by as much as three per cent.

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The researchers linked the projected decline in meat prices to reduced demand, as a significant portion of Canadians look to lower their meat consumption while switching to plant-based protein alternatives.

An earlier survey conducted by the same universities found 32.2 per cent of respondents were considering reducing meat consumption.

Health Canada will release a new Food Guide in 2019, and the university researchers expect the guide will prioritize consumption of plant-based foods.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an overwhelming interest in alternatives to meat and dairy, shifting the focus towards vegetarian and vegan eating patterns,” said the report.

That rising consumer interest in meat-alternatives is being seen in Western Canada as a number of pea processing plants are under construction or already online.

Reached via email, Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food policy at Dalhousie and a project lead for the Food Price Report, said increases in prices for base ingredients such as peas, lentils and chickpeas used in the production of plant-based protein alternatives “should be expected.”

However, he added, when those increases will take place and how large they may be is still unknown.

The study only looks at retail trends for now, but Charlebois said the farm-gate implications will be looked at in the future.

Canadian farmers seeded 3.75 million acres of peas in 2018, 2.23 million acres of lentils and 282,800 acres of chickpeas, according to Statistics Canada data. Those three crops accounted for about 10 per cent of all the major commodities grown in the country.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Glacier FarmMedia company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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Glacier FarmMedia, a division of Glacier Media, is Canada's largest publisher of agricultural news in print and online.

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