Bullish for Beef

Who’s got beef with COVID-19? It turns out that most Canadians.

Even the spiraling shocks of rising meat prices and plant-based diets during the coronavirus pandemic haven’t stopped people from loving sirloin, rib eye or porter steaks.

As barbecue season begins across the country, a study by leading food economists at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab found that up to 92% of Canadians are still beef lovers – 65% eating different cuts of meat several times in a regular week.

But the results vary by province, gender and age group; and one in four Canadians has thought about cutting beef out of their diet altogether in the past 12 months.

“It’s surprising and it’s not surprising at the same time,” said Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food management at Dalhousie University, who led the study with a team of experts and through surveys. conducted by the Angus Reid polling firm.

Charlebois shared the findings of his report exclusively with the free press, ahead of wide distribution today. “We thought the rise and influence of the vegetarian and vegan movements would have been a factor in different choices with beef because we saw how badly it happened during the pandemic,” he said.

“But we can certainly see that whether popular cooking sites like Epicurious go vegan or not, beef remains an important staple in the diets of Canadians for a variety of reasons – and even despite these rising prices.

When asked why they like to eat beef, seven in ten respondents cited taste as their main reason – highest in any category. At the same time, 55 percent of Canadians reported consuming it regularly because they saw the product as an excellent source of protein, and 42 percent saw it as a central part of their personal cooking traditions.

Manitoba is among the most frequent consumers of beef in the country with 71% of the sample population, just behind Alberta at 73%. That’s a far cry from British Columbia, which has the highest proportion of vegans and vegetarians in the country and only 58%. 100 of the people there regularly eat beef.

“For us, our regional love for beef has certainly been the best news of the pandemic,” said Munther Zeid, owner and operator of Food Fare stores, which have several slaughterhouses in store in Winnipeg.

“While prices have certainly skyrocketed due to supply chain disruptions in the units and meat processing centers, we have seen premium cuts evolve incredibly and even very expensive products like the Wagyu beef fly away right away.

Across Manitoba, Statistics Canada beef price data shows stew cuts have gone from $ 13.50 to $ 17.20 per kilogram; sirloin cuts climbed to $ 24.04 from $ 17.84; and striploin cuts were $ 31.57 versus $ 18.15.

But these are numbers for summer 2020, and experts like Charlebois believe they will continue to multiply for many years to come, including summer 2021.

Zeid, however, is not fazed by this. “Obviously people will be complaining about the price hike,” he said.

“But we find that everyone still buys beef. And I really believe it’s because of the pandemic that people are realizing that they have money to spend on quality products – especially in the independent stores that we in Manitoba have a lot of. lucky to have.

Yet many Canadians have considered cutting beef from their diets. In Manitoba alone, almost half of all respondents said they had given it much thought because of the price hike.

Among Canadians under 35, this number is highest – 31% are considering cutting back on beef.

In addition, 47 p. 100% of Canadians believe that the number of people cutting beef from their diet will increase in the years to come. And 44 percent think it’s “desirable” to see more people cut back on beef over time.

“At the end of the day,” says Charlebois, “it’s a personal choice. And I suspect that with the abundance of choices for protein options that Canadians now have thanks to the push of the pandemic, these trends to remove beef from the diet will only intensify with more options. over the next few years.

Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Winnipeg Free Press

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