Climate protection on the menu
According to a survey commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Food, more than half of all Germans, around 55 per cent, describe themselves as “flexitarians”. What is behind this term, what do these people eat and can food be political?
By Petra Schönhöfer
The average German, it is often said, loves his or her bratwurst. Accordingly, he or she consumes an average of around 800 grams of meat per week. This is not only unhealthy – the medically recommended amount is between 300 and 600 grams – but also harmful to the climate. The reason for this is that together with milk and dairy products, according to current estimates, this meat consumption causes around 70 percent of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions. The proportion of vegetarians, i.e. people who do not eat meat, is only around five percent in Germany, and only one percent of Germans eat vegan, i.e. completely plant-based.
Quite a lot, however, can be achieved by reducing meat consumption. And this is where the flexitarians come into play – they might well be omnivores, but meat plays a subordinate role in their diet. About 470 grams of it ends up in their pots and pans on average each week. This corresponds to about two meatballs and two fried sausages. Many flexitarians also state that they consciously only choose high-quality or organic meat.
Good for the climatePeople who consciously eat little meat are more likely to keep the world in ecological balance than meat fans. This is the result of a study that WWF Germany carried out in spring 2021 together with the consultancy corsus – corporate sustainability GmbH. If the meat consumption of all Germans were to halve, the ecological balance would look much better. The food-related greenhouse gas emissions of currently around 210 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year could be reduced by 27 percent (56 million tons). In addition, the low-meat diet would also reduce Germany’s current food-related land requirement by almost three million hectares. That corresponds roughly to the size of the German federal state of Brandenburg. Meat consumption in Germany has in fact already fallen – in 2016, according to the environmental organisation WWF, Germans were actually still consuming over a kilo of meat per person per week – but more still needs to be done.
That is why the WWF is advocating a general rethink. When catering for events or for people travelling, there should automatically be a vegetarian menu available, says Tanja Dräger de Teran, consultant for nutrition and agriculture at WWF Germany. “Anyone who wants meat, ticks that box separately.” Obligatory minimum criteria for catering in public institutions such as schools might also be an option. Because the students want it that way – in future, meat and fish will only make up four per cent of the menu at Berlin universities. (Symbol image) | Photo (detail): © Adobe