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Germany produced less meat in 2020

May 14, 2021

Germany produced less meat last year, while demand for vegan products soared. But schnitzels and sausages still outnumber plant-based alternatives on store shelves by a wide margin.

Shelves in a supermarket stacked with meat cold cuts
Consumption of meat products is falling in Germany, while the meat substitute market is growingImage: Daniel Kubirski/dpa/picture alliance

The total value of meat produced in Germany fell in 2020, the country's Federal Statistics Office (Desatis) said on Friday.

Meanwhile, the production of vegetarian and vegan substitute products in the country surged.

What do the figures show?

The total value of meat products in Germany came to €38.6 billion ($46.8 billion) last year. This is down 4% from the 10-year high in 2019 when Germany's meat products had a total value of €40.1 billion, Destatis reported.

Conversely, Germany's meat substitute industry saw a boom.

Companies produced almost 39% more meat substitutes in 2020 than in the previous year.

Infografik Fleischproduktion Deutschland EN

Production rose from just under 60,400 tons to 83,700 tons — the equivalent of nearly 12,000 fully grown African elephants.

The value of meat substitute products increased from €272.8 million to €374.9 million, or a 37% increase, in the same period.

Destatis only began collecting data on the meat substitute industry in 2019, making this the first time that a comparison between two years was possible.

What's behind the meat production fall?

The statisticians think the 2020 decline in meat production could be related to the coronavirus pandemic. Some production plants were forced to temporarily close due to breaking hygiene rules and COVID-19 outbreaks among employees  —  most notably at the Tönnies meat-processing plant in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Tönnies and its contract workers - Exploitation in Germany

But there is also a long-term trend of falling meat consumption in the country.

In 1987, a household would consume on average 6.7 kilograms of meat in a month, not including sausages, cured and processed meats. By 2020, this had reduced to around a third, to 2.3 kilograms.

kmm/sms (Reuters, AFP, epd)