The Chinese government has reviewed its dietary guidelines to encourage consumers to eat less meat. The new guidelines recommend an upper limit on meat and poultry consumption of 75g per day and have reduced the lower daily value from 50g to 40g. Altogether, the government suggests that citizens should limit meat, poultry, fish and dairy consumption to 200g per day.

Eat less meat?!

Chinese consumers have dramatically increased their meat consumption in recent years. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says that daily meat and dairy consumption in China now averages more than 300g per day, far above the new guidelines and a figure that is projected to keep increasing over the next few decades. The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics and Science recently predicted that China’s meat imports will skyrocket by more than 3,500% by 2050. If these forecasts are true, global resources are likely to become stressed, with the UN suggesting that meat production will need to double to meet demand by 2050.

This precarious situation has encouraged legislators around the world to act as the strain on global food resources becomes obvious. We’ve seen the Peruvian Congress approve a law making the discarding of unsellable food illegal, the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency challenge the country to reduce food waste by 50% and France pass legislation banning supermarkets from throwing away food.

Such state-approved action is likely to be particularly effective in China, where the idea of personal responsibility is much less developed than in Western markets like the US. Consumers are much more open to being steered toward good behavior and away from bad, suggesting that the new recommendations have the potential to slow the growth of China’s meat consumption. This will have obvious consequences for meat producers and brands, but also creates opportunities for companies to encourage consumers to adopt more flexitarian diets.

Delon Wang is the Trends Manager, Asia Pacific at Mintel. He oversees Trends content and Trends client servicing for the region.

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