There is no doubting the growing interest in plant-based food products and sadly that trend looks set to continue in 2020 throughout the UK and the EU, if the European Commission's latest agricultural outlook for the next decade is anything to go by.

At present, as much as 42% of protein consumed in the EU originates from plants, with the remaining 58% coming from animals in the form of meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

However, in the scenario modelled by the European Commission which provides a medium-term outlook for major EU agricultural markets and agricultural income to 2030, diets gradually change over the next 10 years to a 50/50 ratio. This would lead to a 17% drop in animal protein consumption with consumers continuing to consume the same number of calories, protein and fats.

According to the report, such diet changes are as a result of increased information available relating to the composition of various foods and a growing number of people becoming more health conscious and looking to buy foods with fewer additives, salt, sugar, etc, etc.

It also claims food is becoming more functional and customised to specific consumers’ needs. Add to that rising concerns about health, climate change and animal welfare, and the outlook predicts meat consumption will fall slightly in the EU over the next decade.

Backing up these statements are the increased number of vegetarians and vegans, particularly high in the younger generation (more than 8% in Germany, France, Italy and Poland), while the number of flexitarians (consumers eating less meat) is rising across all age groups.

Societal concerns have also led to an increasing demand for organic products, which is expected to support production growth in the medium term, with a further move towards more natural products expected.

With such changes predicted over the next decade, the EU outlook reckons average farmgate prices could decline by as much as 18% compared to the baseline forecast, which in turn would see the EU becoming more competitive on the global market with exports of meat almost doubling.

Total meat production in the EU as a result would decline by 8%, with the modelling also expecting the same fall in the dairy industry.

Looking at the bigger picture, although world meat consumption is set to grow by 46million tonnes between 2019 and 2030, reaching 374mt, or 35.7kg per capita – an increase of nearly 1kg per person – average annual total consumption growth of +1.1% compared to +2% in 2009-2019.

Population and economic growth in developing countries, albeit slower than in the previous decade, will largely contribute to higher consumption. A large part of world demand will be met through domestic production but imports will be needed to cover the gap in many countries.

As always though, there are uncertainties with the impact of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Asia, continuing to have a massive affect on meat sales and production elsewhere.

China is already the largest export destination and this will only become bigger, not only for pigmeat, but for all meats the report states.

In the short term, as world meat production will not be able to cope with this increased import demand, trade diversion to Asia is to be envisaged, putting less pressure on certain EU meat markets as a result.

Moreover, EU meat exports can take advantage of this additional demand, especially for pigmeat, certain poultry cuts and offal.

Getting back to the EU, meat consumption by meat type (kg per capita) is expected to decline 1.1kg from 69.8kg to 68.7kg per capita by 2030 for several reasons: growing social and ethical concerns, environmental and climate worries, health claims, an ageing European population (eating smaller portions) and lower meat availability on the domestic market.

The overall decline will be accompanied by a shift in the consumer basket.

Beef is expected to continue its downward trend. Meanwhile, the ongoing replacement of pigmeat by poultry meat consumption will go even faster, due to an increased import demand for pigmeat in Asia.

Sheepmeat consumption is expected to increase slightly thanks to the diversification of the meat diet and changes in the EU population due to religious beliefs and migration. Overall consumption is expected to rise to 1.8kg per capita

by 2030, or around 100g per person, or +6% compared to 2019. It sounds a lot but it remains the lowest compared to other meats.

Meanwhile, poultry meat consumption is expected to continue to grow, reaching 26.6g per capita by the end of the outlook period, with prices remaining stable.

Other trends in meat consumption could be related to increasing importance consumers attach to the origin of meat and how it has been produced (organic, animal welfare, environmental footprint); and a shift from fresh meat towards more processed meat and preparations.

Lab-grown meat could become a competitor for meat but consumer acceptance and environmental footprint

remain unclear.

Looking at the dairy industry, average yields are expected to grow from 7300kg per cow in 2019 to 8340kg by 2030 (annual growth of 1.2%). Such efficiency gains would allow the number of dairy cows to be reduced by 1.4m, to 21.2m heads (6% below the 2019 level).

At the same time, increasing yields could lead to a reduction in GHG emitted per kg of milk.

However, there will also be demand driven differentiation production systems. For example, EU organic milk

production is assumed to increase to 7% of EU milk production in 2030 (compared to 3% in 2017), with, GM-free,

pasture and hay-based, animal welfare and other certified milk production systems are expected to gain market shares.

The increasing demand for quality and authenticity is also likely to lead to a growing number of consumers buying food on farmers’ markets, directly at the farm or via other community-supported schemes. This may reverse the currently

declining trend of direct sales towards 2030.

EU meat consumption by meat type (kg per capita)

Beef Pigmeat Poultry Sheepmeat

1990 12.6 30.8 13.8 2.8

2000 11.8 32.5 17.6 2.6

2010 11.3 32.6 20.6 2.0

2020 10.8 31.3 25.6 1.8

2030 10.0 30.2 26.6 1.8