Whilst a growing number of Belgians are opting for meatless diets, residents of Brussels are the most likely to go for a vegetarian meal compared to the rest of the country.
Furthermore, at least 45% of those who eat meat in the capital wish to reduce their meat intake. This shows a far greater interest in moving towards a plant-based diet than the national average, where only 39% want to reduce their meat intake, according to a study commissioned by EVA, the Belgian association to promote plant-based diets.
"People want to eat well, especially younger people and women. It's not necessarily the wellbeing of the animal that pushes people away from meat, although with more and more farmed meat scandals, that is also changing," the association explained in a statement.
The study also highlights the need for more information about cooking and nutrition. "People often don't know how to cook a vegetarian meal and a lot of people don't know how to replace meat."
Doctor in sociology Amélie Ancieux told La Libre that some conditions are more likely to entice people towards vegetarian choices: "There isn't enough information about it. It isn't simply a question of telling people about vegetarian alternatives, they also need to be given the means, including financially. Everyone knows that eating vegetables from the garden is good, but not everyone can."
A popular diet for city people
The study didn't pinpoint the exact reasons for the higher popularity of vegetarian diets in Brussels, however it is likely to be linked to the city's young and educated population and are more favourable of trying alternatives to traditional meat-orientated meals.
Many of the city's restaurants cater to plant-based diets, which are especially popular among more affluent customers. Yet EVA notes that working-class residents often find it harder to move away from meat. Yet the organisation was quick to note that it is often "women who have already been convinced."
Eating meat is a cultural and social habit so ingrained into daily routine that it becomes difficult to alter. It is often the more financially stable families who have the means to make lifestyle changes but once the first step has been made, this often has a lasting effect: "Those who do change their habits for a month are those most likely to be able to continue."