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Where’s the beef? Red meat consumption, prices dropping, say experts

WATCH: Studies have shown the price of meat is expected to go lower this year, partly due to a current trend toward plant-based diets.

As meat prices are expected to go down in Canada this year, the beef industry says it remains in good shape while studies show a growing popularity in plant-based foods.

The price of meat is forecasted to drop as much as three per cent in 2019, according to a study released late last year by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph.

“That’s probably the first time in close to 10 years that’s happened,” report co-author Simon Somogyi told Global News. “We think the main reason for that was that back in 2014-15, there was a large drought in the Prairie area … It’s taken a good two, three years for their herd sizes to get back up to those pre-drought levels so now we’re seeing supply and demand equalize.”

READ MORE: Here’s how much more Canadians will likely spend on groceries in 2019

A survey of 1,027 Canadians conducted by Dalhousie last November found that more than half of Canadians are interested in eating less meat, while a third planned to lower their meat consumption within six months.

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That could be another factor in driving down the price of meat, though Somogyi said he doesn’t think it’ll be very noticeable for a while.

“I think it’s going to be more of a longer-term prospect, a five- to 10-year prospect, to see a major impact of changes to plant-based diets having an impact on meat prices,” he said.

READ MORE: More than half of Canadians want to eat less meat, survey finds

The study also found that Canadians collectively consume 94 million kilograms less beef per year than they did in 2010.

Scott Clement, owner of Winnipeg’s Dakota Family Foods, said he’s seeing the trend of veggie-based diets in his store.

For instance, he started selling Beyond Meat last week, the plant-based burger alternative.

“We put it on our social media, and it flew out of here, which it continues to do right now,” Clement said.

READ MORE: Beyond Meat launching in Canadian stores amid race to build a better veggie burger

However, the beef industry isn’t concerned with its competition.

“We feel Canadian beef has a place on the plate,” said Ron Glaser, vice-president of corporate affairs for Canada Beef.

Glaser said it’s important for the industry to pay attention to studies regarding consumption habits, but at the moment, there are no signs of a hurting beef industry.

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“I think what you’re seeing in the marketplace is not so much a reaction about meat, per se,” he said. “What you’re seeing is a lot of choice available for consumers. Never before have consumers had so many choices.”

Glaser estimates the drop in meat prices to be closer to half a per cent to one per cent.

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