Germany’s federal environment agency has strongly urged the nation’s citizens to revise their meat-eating habits in order to lessen their impact on the health of the planet, recommending a more Mediterranean diet and a return to the pre-war custom of reserving meat-based meals for special occasions only.
While consumption has fallen from an average 64 kg a head in 1991 to 58.7 kg today, Germans remain among Europe’s biggest meat eaters, obtaining around 39 percent of their total calorie intake from meat and meat products. Health concerns are believed to be the main reason for the drop.
Andreas Troge, president of UBA, the government’s advisory body on environmental issues, stated that agriculture is responsible for around 15 percent of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and that meat production is their most energy-intensive form of farming.
Troge’s comments have been criticized by some farming experts and politicians. Edmund Geisen, agricultural adviser to the liberal Free Democrats, commented: ‘Andreas Troge should stop trying to damage the nation’s appetite by discrediting agricultural production… our enlightened consumers should decide for themselves what they want to eat.’
However, Germany’s vegetarian association, VeBu, welcomed the move. ‘It’s good to see politicians are finally waking up to the fact that the amount of meat we eat is unsustainable,’ said Hilmar Steppat of VeBu. The number of vegetarians in Germany has increased from 0.4 percent in 1983 to around 10 percent today.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, though other experts believe this figure is too high. The high greenhouse impact of meat production is due to the use of chemicals to grow feed, transport fuels, and the potent greenhouse gas methane from cattle and sheep.