Changing your diet: what gives you a higher tax on meat?

The full VAT rate on meat, milk and eggs, i.e. 19% instead of the current 7%, and at the same time the end of VAT on fruit and vegetables: this is what the Scientific Council for Agricultural Policy, the Federal Environment Agency, is asking the future Agriculture Committee, the so-called Borchert Commission, Greenpeace, European Commission, Federation of Consumer Organizations, VdK social association.

In short: many agriculture, consumer and social experts. Motive: If the consumption of animal products and the cattle population decreased, the climate would be protected and civilization diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems would be prevented. Moreover, according to the calculations of experts, such a price can ensure greater animal welfare.

Research shows: Individual consumers would eat less meat

A thought experiment: VAT on animal products will be increased. At the same time, the tax on fruit and vegetables will be abolished – what would happen? What are the customers saying in the supermarket parking lot? Responses range from “We can’t do without it” to “And so little meat” to “I wouldn’t eat meat one more day a week.”

Food trade is unchanged

The survey among large groups of grocery traders was not very fruitful – Rewe, Edeka, Aldi and Lidl were referring to trade associations. Bernd Ohlmann, managing director of the Bavarian Trade Association, assumes that an increase in VAT on animal products and cheaper fruit and vegetables would not have a particular impact: “Consumers will really buy more fruit and vegetables because they are paying seven percent less for a banana. for which I cannot believe I have to pay. ”

He does not think it is possible to control eating behavior by changing the VAT rate. In addition, it is well known whether retail will fully pass on to the customer the tax increase on meat and the tax reduction on fruit and vegetables. After all, discounters decide how much customers pay at the checkout.

The number of livestock can only decrease when less meat is put on the plate

According to a study by the Öko-Institut commissioned by Greenpeace, for Germany to achieve its climate goals and become climate-neutral by 2045, livestock farming must be cut in half. In order not to have to import meat, the production of which has a negative impact on the climate balance and the environment elsewhere, it is also necessary to halve the consumption of animal products.

This basically corresponds to the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society: for health reasons, the average per capita meat consumption should drop from the current 55 kilograms to around 30 kilograms per year. But how can this be successful?

On average, German households spend eleven percent of their income on food, but poorer households spend 20 percent or more. In 2018, households in Germany paid more on average for fruit and vegetables than for meat and fish for the first time. So what goes on the plate is also a social issue.

Experts: Changing prices also changes purchasing behavior

Scientists from Kiel tried to estimate how much demand would fall if the VAT rate on animal products was raised to 19 percent, which means that meat would be about 11 percent. more expensive. Their result: the demand for meat would fall by two to eleven percent. The Thünen Institute expects a decrease of around five percent. Experts have not yet taken into account that fruit and vegetables could become seven percent cheaper at the same time – if VAT on meat-free food were completely abolished. Prerequisite: supermarkets pass the new prices on to customers.

Katrin Zander, professor of agri-food marketing at the University of Kassel-Witzenhausen, also assumes that demand for the product groups will change. Consumers react when prices change. So you can see that they are now “shifting, for example, from higher-quality brands to private labels.”

Other stimuli can also change eating habits

According to Zander, if it were publicly discussed that meat, eggs and milk pollute the climate more than grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, it would lead to behavioral changes, at least among some consumers. It assumes that a food climate label would have some effect on the menu as well – at least if it were known enough.

The professor from Kassel-Witzenhausen expects tangible success from catering outside the home. Canteens, restaurants, refectory and hospitals are of increasing importance. They would have to offer smaller portions of meat and more varied vegetable side dishes, as well as cook more vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Many people would eat meat more when away from home than at home. You saw it in the corona blockade phases, when out-of-home catering and meat consumption dropped at the same time, says Zander. Limiting the consumption of animal products does not have to mean consuming meat and cold cuts only once a week. It can also mean pieces of meat that are only half the size of the previous one, sausage instead of steam.

A doctor as a dietitian

What are other options for reducing meat consumption? If anyone can reverse the “nutritional wheel,” it can be the doctor. At least, that’s the impression that consumers make in front of the grocery store. Their replies: “Yes, if he said you should eat less meat, I could do without it”, “Definitely then”, “As for health, yes.” When consulting a doctor, it is rumored that what is on the table is decided.

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