Marked decline in meat consumption in 2020 pandemic year

October 28, 2021

The total consumption of meat and cold cuts per capita in the Netherlands in 2020 was 75.9 kg (based on carcass weight). This is a decrease of 1.9 kg compared to 2019. This outcome was based on calculations by Wageningen University & Research made for Wakker Dier. These numbers represent the largest decrease and the lowest level in a series of measurements that date back to 2005.

The decrease was primarily observed in the three main meat categories: poultry meat (0.8 kg), pork (0.5 kg) and beef (0.4 kg). The 2020 figures show a decline in meat consumption for the first time since 2010-2016. The decrease of almost 2 kg in one year is nearly as high as the decrease between 2010 and 2016.

Retail sales via supermarket and butcher

The 2020 pandemic year was not an ordinary year for many reasons. There were far fewer opportunities to eat meat outside the home. Restaurants had to close completely or partly during 2020, in-company caterers were closed because of employees working from home and caterers were faced with cancelled parties, conferences, fairs and other events.

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This fuelled the consumption of meat at home: in 2020, supermarkets and butchers sold 24.6 million kilos more meat than in 2019. This increase can mainly be attributed to the sales of meat (over 23.3 million kilos) and less to that of cold cuts (almost 1.3 million kilos). This increase does not compensate for the decline in meat consumption in 2020.

Plant-based meat substitutes

Another remarkable change in the market is the continued growth in sales of plant-based meat substitutes. However, the size of this market is and remains relatively modest for the time being (4%). Therefore, the impact of the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes on the consumer demand for meat at present seems to be limited at best.

The decrease in meat consumption in 2020 can be linked to the (partial) closure of the hospitality industry due to the pandemic lock-down. As a result, an important sales channel for meat was closed to consumers. The growing demand for plant-based meat substitutes appears to be less demonstrably linked to the decline of meat consumption. This suggests that the 2020 figures have more to do with the practical possibilities available to eat meat than with new food preferences toward more plant-based foods.