Maltese eat less meat than fellow Europeans

50% willing to give up meat for vegetables for environmental reasons

James Debono
11 July 2013, 12:00am

Maltese citizens eat less beef, poultry, pork and other cuts of meat than most of their European counterparts, according to a survey conducted by Eurobarometer.

Only 15% of the Maltese compared to 35% of citizens in all 27-member states eat meat more four times a week. Only 4% of Maltese citizens eat meat more than five times a week compared to 14% of all Europeans.

However Maltese citizens regularly consume meat with just 3% claiming that they never eat meat and 4% eating meat less than once a week.

The vast majority of Maltese (61%) consume meat (beef, pork or poultry) two or three times a week while 17% consume it once a week.

In the European Union as a whole one in ten citizens report eating meat once a week (12%), around half of citizens eat meat two or three times a week (47%), a fifth eat it four or five times a week (21%) and 14% eat it more than five times a week.

Despite the high reported meat consumption overall, many EU citizens and Maltese are willing to change their meat consumption habits for environmental reasons.

Two thirds of Maltese citizens would be willing to eat less meat but of certified origin (67%). But the Maltese are less likely to shift to meat of certified origins than other Europeans, 80% of which are willing to make this move.

64% of Maltese compared to 72% of all Europeans would be willing to replace beef or pork with poultry or fish and half would be willing to replace most of the meat they eat with vegetables (50%) - which is the same as the European average. 

The highest proportion of EU citizens who claim to never eat meat are in the United Kingdom (6%). The highest meat consumption is in Denmark where more than half say that they eat meat more than five times a week (55%), with most of the remaining respondents reporting that they eat meat four or five times a week (26%). 

Out of all EU countries, cash starved Greece is the country where most respondents claim to eat meat less than once a week (5%), once a week (20%) and two or three times a week (62%). 

It is also the country where the lowest proportion of respondents report they eat meat four of five times a week (9%) and more than five times a week (3%). 

Respondents are most willing to replace most of the meat they eat with vegetables in Romania (69%), Cyprus (66%) and Greece (65%). However, less than a third are willing to do so in the Netherlands (29%), Ireland (30%), Estonia (31%) and the United Kingdom (33%).

Environmental impact of meat consumption

The consumption of great quantities of meat has a variety of negative environmental impacts. Large quantities of water are needed for animals and the crops the animals feed upon.

The amount of water needed for a pound of meat is many times greater then the amounted needed for a pound of legumes, seeds, vegetables or grains fit for human consumption. As consumer demand for meat increases more land is needed. Hundreds of miles of the South American rainforest is burned and cut annually and converted to crop and grazing land. The New York Times reported that 1,250 miles of Brazilian rain forest were lost for feed and livestock production in just five months. As meat demand rises more farmland is devoted to feed crops for livestock and taken away from less profitable grain production that was previously produced for people in underdeveloped countries.
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...