For the environment, Europeans want to change their eating habits

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A survey by various consumer associations in Europe indicates that consumers are inclined to make efforts to eat more sustainably. However, they request that this habit be made easier and more accessible, in particular thanks to the action of governments.

How important are Europeans to the impact of their food choices on the environment? Are you planning to eat less red meat? Do you find that your government is doing enough to promote sustainable food? These are some of the questions in the survey carried out by various consumer associations of Europeans from 11 countries, the results of which have just been published by BEUC (European Bureau of Consumers' Unions). As explained by the association Test Achats, the results show that the majority of citizens attribute importance to the impact of their food choices on the environment and that they want to consume more ecologically.

However, to achieve this, it is essential that sustainable food rhymes with "ease", for example through price changes, better information and a wider offer. "While the COVID-19 pandemic is overturning our eating habits, our survey, conducted a few months before the start of the crisis, shows that consumers were already inclined to eat more sustainably," says BEUC. Of course, it is difficult to predict whether current trends, such as cooking and shopping locally, will continue. However, policymakers should take advantage of them when they can contribute to a stronger and more sustainable food system. "

Red meat is no longer so popular in dishes

BEUC recalls that food is the main source of environmental impacts generated by households in the EU (European Union). It is followed by housing, in particular heating and mobility, in particular the use of private vehicles. The survey shows that when it comes to food, consumers believe that the term "sustainable" means organic, GMO and pesticide free and local, with some details in all countries. But in terms of beliefs, they tend to underestimate the impact of their own eating habits on the environment, although most are aware of the environmental impact of food in general.

Two-thirds of respondents say they are open to the idea of changing their eating habits for environmental reasons, which include wasting less food, buying more seasonal fruits and vegetables, and eating more plant-based foods. However, reducing your consumption of dairy products or spending more money on sustainably produced food are the two main obstacles.

Another observation: almost 40% of consumers state that they have stopped or reduced their consumption of red meat for environmental reasons.

Consumers are less attracted to insects or laboratory meat to replace animal protein and prefer vegetable "burgers" or traditional vegetarian alternatives such as legumes. "It seems difficult for many consumers to eat less red meat, while our consumption in Europe is much higher than the recommended levels to guarantee human and planetary health. However, most respondents have nothing against eating more lentils , peas and other legumes to replace animal proteins, "explains Monique Goyens, CEO of BEUC.

It should also be noted that 38.9% of respondents are in favor of regulations that compel farmers and manufacturers to comply with stricter sustainability standards. Even 53% agree that farmers, for example through subsidies, should be encouraged to produce food more sustainably. But consumers still cite price, lack of knowledge, unclear information, and limited product choice as the main barriers to more sustainable eating. Especially since only 16% of them believe that their government sufficiently promotes sustainable food, both in terms of production and consumption.

"The study shows that most consumers tend to change their eating habits, but that it is not easy. For sustainable choice to become the easy choice, changes are needed on several levels. Consumers want better information and better information. Wider range of sustainable options. But our individual choices will not be enough to transform our eating habits to the level recommended by experts. Legislators, manufacturers, distributors have a crucial role to play in price adjustment, marketing and all. other factorsthat push us to choose one product over another", concludes Monique Goyens.

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