Meat is still much cheaper than vegetarian and that’s it
In the overview below you can see that the cheapest meat option and cheapest vegetarian variant are quite different in terms of price. We looked at minced meat and chicken fillet or pieces and the vegetarian counterparts. We based this on the products with the lowest price per 100 grams, in the online stores of five large supermarket chains.
So people who do their shopping as cheaply as possible spend less money with meat. According to Corné van Dooren, Sustainable Food expert at the Netherlands Nutrition Center, the price difference is largely due to the scale of production.
“The number of animals per farm is very large. We make a lot of meat here with relatively little feed, especially if you compare that with other countries. Chickens, for example, are only a few weeks old when they are slaughtered. In that respect it is very efficient. ”says Van Dooren.
‘Milked out cows’
In addition, according to him, our beef comes to a large extent from ‘milked cows’. “They have already raised their money,” explains Van Dooren. “Dairies earn for export on cheese and baby powder, and then meat is a kind of by-product.” Van Dooren also points out that meat substitutes are relatively new products. “They are often produced by companies that are still small and invest a lot of money in product development,” he says.
Maarten Vriesendorp of meat substitute producer Vivera explains that narrowing the price difference for the Dutch company is ‘extremely desirable’. “And if we can offer our meat successors for an equal price, it will be easier for people to switch from meat.”
Meat and ‘social costs’
Research office CE Delft calculated in 2018 that the social damage caused by meat consumption in the Netherlands is EUR 4.5 billion annually. To do this, they looked at thousands of substances released in the meat industry, and the damage they cause to human health, the climate and the environment.
That billions of dollars is not passed on in the price that people pay in the supermarket for, for example, half a kilo of ground beef or two chicken fillets. The researchers then stated that if we do pass on those costs, pork would become more than 50 percent more expensive and chicken more than 25 percent.
Van Dooren thinks that settling the social costs could yield a fairer price. “If you look at the nitrogen crisis, others and nature have to bleed for it,” he says.
Children and grandchildren
“All those costs are now paid in a different way, for example through taxes. Or the bill will go to our children and grandchildren in the future.” According to him, vegetable products require much less energy to produce. “And they require less land, and they emit less greenhouse gases.”
Many political parties have included a meat tax in their program for the parliamentary elections. In this way, meat becomes a few percent more expensive and people could choose a meatless option more often. “That can make a difference,” thinks Van Dooren.
He himself is talking about a price correction. So the leveling of prices, in order to lower the meat consumption. “Because production is going so fast and our wages have risen considerably, many Dutch people can afford meat almost every day. While it used to be a real luxury product,” says Van Dooren.
Vivera’s meat substitutes have been available in Dutch supermarkets since 1990. According to Vriesendorp, it is strange that consumers pay more for something that is healthier. “As a society, we must strive to ensure that the things that are best for us and that contain much less saturated fats, that there is the most subsidy behind it.” Vriesendorp mentions the EU money that goes to the promotion of meat and chicken as an example.
In December of last year, the European Union announced that more than 30 million euros in subsidy money would go to campaigns for or around meat. Wakker Dier Foundation previously called these kinds of subsidies ‘perverse’.
Vriesendorp: “If you spread the 30 million over the entire meat market, then that is only a fraction of the money that goes into it. But for meat successors that amount would have an enormous impact, because that market is much smaller.”
He explains that in terms of subsidies, it does not stop with the advertising money. “There are many other subsidies that keep the price of meat artificially low, which prevents a level playing field.” In 2018, for example, Dutch farmers received another 720 million euros in direct income support from the EU.
According to Van Dooren, it is mainly about the long term. “You cannot say: ‘Stop eating meat now’ or ‘We have to halve it. We must ensure that the meat that is produced has a fair price. And that can indeed ensure that it is just as before. which becomes more of a luxury product. ”
“But”, he says, “it is especially important that the total shopping basket does not become more expensive. If you are going to intervene, you have to make sure that good food remains affordable for everyone.”