A central part of the European food industry is the meat sector. The sector deals mainly with slaughter and meat processing. Operations in the meat trade are also part of the industry. Fresh and frozen meat, as well as meat products such as sausages or pastries are traded all over Europe. And thus, meat is one of the most discussed food products among consumers: the health factor is one issue; the environmental impacts of animal husbandry another one, and ethical concern often resulting in vegetarianism or veganism.
The country with the most meat and fish companies in Europe in 2016 was Germany. Over 14,700 companies are located there. Its meat processing industry generated revenues of roughly 21 billion euros in 2016. In the slaughter sector, a distinction is made between poultry slaughter and the slaughter of other animals. Poultry includes chickens, turkeys and ducks. Other animals refer to pigs, cattle, calves, sheep and goats. In France, over 1.7 million tons of poultry were slaughtered in 2015. Foie gras, the liver of a duck or goose, is a French export hit, with a volume of 2,421 tons exported in 2015. In the Netherlands, most non-poultry animals slaughtered for the domestic meat industry in 2017 were pigs, with an amount of roughly 15.4 million animals. In comparison, only 1.5 million calves and 571 thousand cattle were slaughtered.
The northern European diet consists mainly of fish, but also of meat and poultry, served with vegetables and potatoes as side dishes. Denmark's hot dogs are considered to be some of the best in the world. They come usually along with a red, boiled pork sausage, fried onions, sliced pickles as well as Danish remoulade, ketchup or mustard. In 2017, Denmark exported sausages and similar meat products, edible offal or blood with a value of 962 million Danish kroner. In Sweden, Köttbullar are served for dinner. Outside the Nordic country, customers can taste the minced meat balls, served with mashed potato and lingonberry jam, at the store restaurants of the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA. Households in Sweden spent on average 39 billion Swedish kronor on meat in 2015. The most favored meat type that year was pig meat.
Out of the biggest five European countries, France consumes the most meat per person. In 2015, the amount was 69.6 kilograms. In comparison, the United Kingdom had a per capita consumption of 54.1 kilograms, whereas the EU average amounted to 64.7 kilograms. For countries such as Germany, France and Italy, a decrease of the annual volume of meat eaten until 2020 is forecasted. In Spain and the United Kingdom, an increase is expected.
The average weekly purchase per person of beef and veal in the United Kingdom in 2016/17 was 102 grams. That year, the majority of meat purchases were made in the top five multiples, consisting of Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, the Co-operative and Morrisons, ahead of hard discounters and butchers. Whereas other European countries prefer a sweet starter in the morning, across the British Isles, the breakfast includes bacon, sausages and eggs. The weekly amount of cooked bacon and ham purchased per person in the United Kingdom in 2016/17 was 41 grams. One kilogram of bacon in British retail stores cost 387.6 pence on average.
But there are also concerns regarding meat and poultry among consumers all over Europe. As a survey from 2015 reveals, nearly 10 percent of Italians followed a vegetarian diet. In France, Spain and Germany each 7 percent of people were vegetarian. The biggest concern among British consumers when it comes to buying meat and poultry, was the animal welfare followed by whether the label is accurate in its description and the use of antibiotics in meat production.
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