Meat is becoming less important for the younger generations in Germany.
This is shown by the current “Meat Atlas” of the Federal Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is close to the Greens.
Already 10.4 percent of 15 to 29-year-olds eat a vegetarian, a further 2.3 percent even vegan, as a representative online survey of over 1200 young people by the University of Göttingen has shown.
With a total of almost 13 percent, the proportion of people who do without meat in this age group, who can be assigned to Generation Z and partly also to Generation Y, is twice as high as in the total population, according to the authors of the Meat Atlas.
Source: WORLD infographic
In many cases, the impetus was not long ago: around a third of those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet only switched their eating habits to meat-free last year.
BUND and Heinrich Böll Foundation therefore see a strong connection with the Fridays for Future movement.
Especially since it is mostly not about personal taste, as the survey shows.
Instead, for many young adults not eating meat is a political statement.
At least 75 percent of vegans and 50 percent of vegetarians see themselves as part of the climate protection movement.
For comparison: the meat eater is only 15 percent.
The differences in attitudes towards issues such as food waste or working conditions in the meat industry are similarly clear.
There is no division between city and country or rich and poor, according to the survey.
What is striking, however, is the discrepancy between the sexes: around 70 percent of the vegans and vegetarians among the young consumers are female.
Education also plays a role: According to this, students tend to eat a meat-free diet much more than respondents with vocational training.
Above all, those who are interested in technology and craftsmanship tend to eat more meat.
But there is no longer just black or white.
The number of so-called flexitarians is also rising steadily, i.e. those consumers who sometimes eat meat, according to the survey, especially in community and when they know where the animals come from and how they were kept.
According to the Meat Atlas, around a quarter of 15 to 29 year olds belong to this group.
Barbara Unmüßig is accordingly enthusiastic.
"We are seeing a change in awareness among the younger population," says the board member of the Böll Foundation.
Otherwise, however, it paints a bleak picture of eating habits in Germany and the rest of the world.
"Meat consumption is increasing worldwide and thus exacerbating the climate crisis."
Source: WORLD infographic
Around 325 million tons were consumed worldwide in 2019 - that's almost twice as much as 30 years ago.
The background to this is global population growth, but above all the increasing prosperity in a number of countries, which means that more people can afford meat.
The fact that production was below the previous year's level for the first time since 1961 is solely due to the outbreak of African swine fever.
As a result, production in China, by far the largest meat producer in the world, has plummeted.
However, significant growth is forecast for the coming years:
"Dependence on the world market harms the environment"
Unnecessarily according to 360 million tons in 2025. The main drivers are the emerging countries in Asia, but also in Africa, where the average meat consumption is currently around 17 kg per capita.
For comparison: In Germany it is 59.5 kilograms, in the USA and Australia even over 100 kilograms.
The rapidly increasing demand also has an impact on agriculture.
“The necessary feed production takes up space for other cultivation areas and not least for the rainforest,” complains Unmüßig, according to which two thirds of the world's maize cultivation is intended for animals.
And with soy, this proportion is significantly higher.
"We are currently sacrificing the most biodiverse areas on earth for our hunger for meat."
Source: WORLD infographic
And Germany plays an important role in this.
After all, the Federal Republic of Germany is the largest meat producer in Europe with correspondingly high export volumes.
“This dependence on the world market harms the environment, animals and farms,” says BUND chairman Olaf Bandt.
More and more animals would live on fewer and fewer farms - with the corresponding consequences for animal welfare.
For Bandt, these are also a symptom of a failed agricultural policy of the European Union (EU), which has been consistently geared towards the world market in recent years and decades.
"The result is a race to the bottom for the worst social and environmental standards, which runs consistently."
His organization therefore supports the current farmers' protests in Germany, which urge retailers to pay better for their goods.
Bandt also sees consumers as having an obligation.
“You have to see meat as something special again and buy quality instead of bulk, that is, meat from farms that focus on animal welfare,” demands the BUND boss.
Above all, however, politicians must finally react. "We have to raise the minimum standards for animal husbandry in Germany and Europe significantly," demands Bandt. He also sees an enforcement deficit in existing regulations. In many places, animal owners and butchers are already violating the law, according to him. That is not controlled enough. "Implementing the existing laws would help to end the misery."