Cheap pork is still: € 4.40 pork sausage this week on Edde, Aldi goes to the current price race with pork chop for 5.98 euros per kilogram, Hit-Ullrich sells chicken thighs for 2.49 euros per kilogram. When it comes to pork, the supermarket chain advertises with its “promise of quality”: no employment contracts in slaughterhouses, short transport routes for animals.
No question: Even if you don’t look at the brochures of many grocery stores, the corona crisis and the debate on working conditions in slaughterhouses have an effect. After weeks of protests by farmers in front of their distribution centers, Lidl, Kaufland, Aldi and Rewe have agreed to pay higher prices to pig farmers. The aim is to compensate farmers for the losses caused by African swine fever.
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The epidemic meant that global meat production in 2019 did not increase for the first time since 1961, but fell by two percent to 325 million tons. It’s mainly because of China. In the country with the highest meat consumption in the world, African swine fever broke out earlier than in Germany, reducing pork production by more than 20 percent. But this development will not last, experts say.
Meat as a commodity: Before the African swine fever, Germany was a major exporter of pork. Photo: dpa
Meat consumption worldwide has doubled in the last 20 years
Global meat consumption, which has more than doubled in the last 20 years, is estimated to increase by 13 percent by 2028. The US is right ahead. An American citizen consumes an average of more than 100 kilograms of meat and sausages per person per year, in Germany it is around 60 kilograms. While the appetite for meat is declining in this country, it is different in China and other Asian countries, as well as in Africa.
“The global trend is alarming,” said Barbara Unmüßig, head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. On Wednesday, Unmüßig presented a new “meat atlas” together with BUND boss Olaf Bandt. Together with the Federation for Environmental Protection and Nature Protection, the foundation examines how meat consumption affects the environment, health, biodiversity and the social situation of farmers.
Their conclusion: “We need meat,” Unmüßig demanded. After all, massive animal husbandry is harmful to the climate and costs resources. More than 15,400 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of beef; for pigs that are slaughtered much earlier, it is 6,000 liters. Bandt also supports system change. Germany and the EU would focus too much on the world market. Instead of focusing on animal quality and welfare, it’s all about price.
Cheap meat to attract customers: environmentalists are urging supermarkets to refrain from advertising. Photo: Stefan Weger
The high use of antibiotics in stalls means that highly effective reserve antibiotics are also detected in chicken meat samples, which should actually be reserved for humans.
In Brazil, large areas of rainforest are still disappearing to make room for soybeans, which are used as animal feed. The ban on clearing forests for soybeans is circumvented by slashing and burning.
In Brazil, the world’s largest soybean producer, soybean production has increased almost sixfold since 1990, while the use of pesticides, especially glyphosate, has increased ninefold. In addition: “Many substances that are banned in Germany are exported to South America,” criticizes Unmüßig.
However, industrial animal husbandry not only has consequences for the environment, climate and health, but also promotes concentration and continues to grow in global meat companies. The market leader, the Brazilian JBS, slaughters up to 75,000 cattle, 115,000 pigs, 14 million poultry and 16,000 lambs worldwide every day.
In Germany, pork processing is controlled by five companies, Tönnies, Westfleisch, Vion, the Müller Group and Danish Crown. Thanks to their market power, big players can dictate prices to farmers. Farms do not even receive reimbursement. The fact that they continue anyway is due to billions in subsidies from Brussels.
Many people become without meat more often
In the meantime, however, there is a reassessment, especially for young people. A new survey by the Böll Foundation and BUND shows that, thanks to ‘Friday for the Future’, children under 30 are twice as likely to eat vegetarian or vegan food as the average population.
Of course, the market for vegetarian burgers and vegan steaks is booming. Plant-based alternatives generated sales of about $ 4.6 billion in 2017, with experts predicting annual growth of 20 to 30 percent. The market is so attractive that they have long been invested in big players – such as Nestlé and North America’s largest meat producer Tyson.
Experts say: meat consumption must be halved
In order to protect the climate and bring more animal welfare to the barn and allow prices to cover costs, NGOs and scientists are proposing to halve the consumption of animal products by 2050. Should meat consumption fall from 1.1 kilograms per week to 600 grams, stocks pigs and fattening poultry in Germany could be reduced by more than 40 percent.
There is no shortage of suggestions. There is talk of increasing VAT on meat from seven to 19 percent to make steak and salami more expensive. The expert commission, set up by Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner and former Minister of Agriculture Jochen Borchert, proposed an animal welfare tax of 40 cents per kilogram of meat last year to fund the restoration of animal welfare stables. In the summer, the Bundestag asked Klöckner to develop a concept during this legislative term.
Meat-free alternatives are trendy. Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto
“I can very well imagine the animal welfare tax on meat and sausages,” said Klöckner Tagesspiegel. The benefit is to go to a fund that will be used to finance the conversion of the barn and other animal welfare services by our farmers. To avoid conflicts with EU law, the ministry commissioned a feasibility study. Klöckner intends to present the results of the study – a “milestone towards greater animal welfare in livestock farming” – in February or March. “My goal in this legislative term is to reach a decision on this inter-party and faction,” the CDU politician said. EUR 300 million from the economic stimulus package has already been set aside for timely barn conversions.
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The Minister rejects another government regulation restricting the consumption of animal products. 55 percent of consumers are already flexitarians who consciously avoid meat from time to time. “Consumers in Germany are eating more and more varied food,” Klöckner told Tagesspiegel. “So what consumers don’t need are government regulations for private shopping lists.”
Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner wants to support the renovation of the stables in the amount of 300 million euros. Photo: imago images / Political-Moments
JACKET HEAD Olaf Bandt is not enough. The ecologist requires mandatory postage labeling so that consumers can find their way around the supermarket. In order for lower-income households to be able to consume quality and more expensive meat, Hartz IV rates should be increased, Bandt suggests.
What role do consumers play?
“You can’t just pass the problem on to consumers,” says the head of BUND. Politicians need to tighten up animal welfare laws so that animals have a reasonable minimum standard of breeding. The authorities should control this. In order to protect itself from cheap meat from abroad, which was produced under questionable conditions, the EU must set ethical standards and defend them at its external borders, the Bandt demanded.