KRAKOW, POLAND – For the first time, the climate change summit COP hosted several pavilions devoted to food. For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Pavilion agenda considered the food shortages that are likely to occur if governments remain on the same path. Another pavilion, Food 4 Climate, was led by animal welfare organizations and openly discussed plant-based diets, among other food-related topics.
One’s diet, if multiplied by millions, represents a significant way to slow down climate change, for instance by limiting the carbon and methane emissions of livestock. The latter is a highly potent greenhouse gas that increases global temperatures. There are other benefits to plant-based diets, such as the lower prices of plant products over fish and meat or health.
In Central Europe, plant-based diets are gradually becoming more popular, influencing how younger generations turn to ethical and eco-friendly solutions. The urgent global warming situation creates mobilization potential to accompany and relay bottom-up democratic changes in countries where politicians sometimes deny the scope or the very existence of climate change.
There is not much data on plant-based diets among the populations of Central Europe. In general, the number is trending upwards, as is the presence of plant-based products and dishes in restaurants. However, this cannot be mistaken for an accurate count as to how many Central Europeans actually follow a plant-based diet.
There are also a few surveys. They highlight that the percentage of the population that eats a fully plant-based diet is quite low. In Poland, 6% eat a plant-based diet, while in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, it is only 4%, compared to up to 10% in Germany.
These percentages increase when less strict definitions are followed, such as the flexitarian diet where only some meals are plant-based. In Poland, up to 24% of the population can be considered flexitarian. Together with the 6% who are entirely vegetarian or vegan, this means that almost a third of the population consumes some variation of a plant-based diet.
The estimates are lower for the Czech Republic and Hungary. While there may be more products available for consumption, it is likely that the traditional meat-based cuisine is holding fast there.
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