A new study on Canadian dietary choices has found a drastic increase in the number of people shunning meat entirely or limiting the amount they consume.
In January, Health Canada updated its dietary guidelines, encouraging Canadians to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, limit meat and eggs, and eliminate dairy.
As part of a larger study on Canadians’ understanding of the new food guide, Dalhousie University and Guelph University conducted a survey on dietary choices.
The study found that 6.5 million Canadians (20% of the population) have either cut out meat entirely or now limit the amount they consume, up 6.4 million from October 2018.
A record-setting 1.3 million Canadians now say they are vegetarian, and 466,000 identify as vegan.
The research found that 61.5 percent of vegans are women while 66.2 percent of vegetarians are men.
As is the case with the vegetarian and vegan movements in many parts of the world, it is driven primarily by the younger generation as nearly 72% of Canadian vegetarians are 38 and under.
Sylvain Charlebois, the study’s lead author and professor in food distribution told the National Post that she has consistently seen the country’s vegetarian population increase over the years.
“There’s always a margin of error,” says Charlebois. “But this is the fourth time we’ve gone to field in four years and we are seeing increases.”
The meat and dairy industry spoke out against the food guide recommendations before it was released, claiming it is biased and lacking in vital nutrition that animal products provide.
“We don’t want people to be misled thinking they’re getting the equivalent amount of nutrients as they would,” said Alberta Beef Producers Government Relations Manager Tom Lynch-Staunton.
The dairy industry also went on the defense, launching a misleading ad stating that Canadian milk contains no growth hormones, which they were eventually forced to remove.
There are indications that the food guide may be playing a role, as parts of the country have faced a tofu shortage since then.
However, a number of companies that serve meat and dairy have chosen to offer plant-based alternatives to stay competitive as more consumers eliminate or reduce the amount of animal products in their diet.
Packaged meat company Maple Leaf Foods is also getting in the vegan food game, recently stating that the company is turning to its plant-based meat alternatives, which have seen tremendous growth, to help boost sales.
South of the border in the United States, PCRM, a group of over 12,000 doctors, is urging the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to help follow in Canada’s footsteps and eliminate “dangerous” dairy from its recommendations.