25 Belgian restaurants launch EU's first meat-free week

25 Belgian restaurants launch EU's first meat-free week
A vegetarian meal. Credit: Brooke Lark at Unsplash

Belgium will become the first country in the European Union to roll out the "meat-free week" campaign in October 2023, in a nationwide initiative that has been taken up by 25 restaurants, including three with Michelin stars.

The campaign will promote plant-based foods as an alternative to meat. It runs from 23 to 29 October as part of the drive towards the EU's 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to levels in 1990.

"More than 80% of participants said after the campaign that they wanted to eat less meat permanently. That's how we'll really make a difference", notes Isabel Boerdam, organiser of the "meat-free week" campaign. The team has called on health institutions, organisations, schools, caterers, local authorities, politicians and individuals to "take up the challenge".

Participants register on the campaign website and receive tips and inspiration, as well as access to "special Belgian" recipes. The "meat-free week" will be rolled out in several EU Member States thanks to a grant from "Horizon Europe", a European funding programme for research and innovation aimed in particular at tackling climate change.

Why meat-free?

To quantify the environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption, Wageningen University & Research institution (in the Netherlands) studied data on Belgian diets provided by the Sciensano public institute for health. This showed that Belgians on average consume 182 grams of meat per day.

It also found that not eating meat halves the greenhouse gas emissions as well as land use. Given that food production is responsible for approximately 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the consequences of shifting diets would be massive. But meat consumption in developed western nations remains high and is deeply embedded in cultural norms.

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