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In this article, we will find which countries have the highest vegetarian populations to understand their deep-rooted food habits. You can skip our detailed analysis of companies innovating to create meat alternatives and head straight to 8 Countries With Highest Rates Of Vegetarians.
India leads the countries with the highest rates of vegetarians, with nearly 24% of the population following a vegetarian diet, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Such a high vegetarian percentage stems from cultural beliefs in the country, particularly among Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists, who often espouse non-violence towards animals. Other countries with high vegetarian populations are Mexico, Brazil, and Taiwan. According to an old study conducted by The Economic and Social Research Institute, 1.5 billion people in the world eat no meat, which made up around 18% of the global population at the time this research was published.
The World Health Organization recommends taking 400 grams of fruits and veggies daily to maintain good health. However, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 adults get enough vegetables and fruits, owing to the fast food culture and meat-based diets. If we talk about countries that take their vegetable portions seriously, Croatia tops the list of vegetable consumption per capita by country, while Chad eats the least amount of vegetables.
These differences hint at certain cultures’ efforts to maintain their health standards and the climates they are blessed with. For instance, Croatia is one of the top exporters of vegetables, grains, and fruits because of its agricultural abundance.
Given that nearly 20% of the world’s freshwater is used in raising livestock and nearly 33% of arable land is used to grow feed for livestock, vegetarianism surely appears as a sustainable food choice. However, as a whopping majority of the world consumes meat and meat-based products, vegetarianism and veganism are still not as popular. According to Statista’s Consumer Insights of 2023, 86% of respondents surveyed in 21 countries said that their diet contains meat.
If you take particular interest in the world’s dietary habits when it comes to meat, we have already covered the Top 20 Countries with the Highest Meat Consumption; go through it to know about the main carnivorous nations.
Companies Adding a New Flavor To Vegetarianism
Owing to the popularity of vegetarian diets, some big names in the food sector have stepped up to make products more accessible to their customers. For instance, Beyond Meat, Inc. (NASDAQ:BYND) offers plant-based meat products that take animals out of the equation but still taste like meat. Beyond Meat, Inc. (NASDAQ:BYND) helps those new to vegetarianism by satiating their cravings without having them eat meat. In fact, all plant-based proteins that mimic meat are there to make the vegetarian transition easier for those whose major diet portion comprises non-veg items.
According to a non-profit, Good Food Institute (GFI), “Plant-based products lead to better health outcomes in terms of fiber provision, controlling cholesterol, and minimizing animal slaughter. Therefore, the diverse product line of Beyond Meat, Inc. (NASDAQ:BYND), which includes burgers, steaks, and sausages (all made from plant-based meat), is gaining immense popularity.
Likewise, Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) owns MorningStar Farms, manufactures vegetarian and vegan products. In recent years, Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) has been moving towards making all its products 100% plant-based. To show commitment towards making vegetarianism practical for all, Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) even introduced the “Incogmeato” product line, which closely mimics the taste and texture of real meat.
Also, despite being traditionally associated with meat products, Tyson Foods Inc (NYSE:TSN) has introduced a plant-based product line called Raised & Rooted, offering plant-based nuggets, burgers, and more. This Tyson Foods Inc (NYSE:TSN) product line includes plant-based nuggets made from a blend of pea protein isolate and other plant ingredients, as well as blended burgers made from a combination of beef and plants. These vegetarian products were launched as Tyson Foods Inc (NYSE:TSN) ‘s response to the rising popularity of plant-based diets and represent a significant shift in strategy for a company mostly known for its meat products.
If you want to know which vegan stocks are taking flight, read 10 Vegan Stocks Billionaires Are Loading Up On to invest right.
20 Countries With Highest Rates Of Vegetarians
We developed our list based on the global ranking of vegetarian populations. Our sources for this study were World Population Review, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO), World Atlas, World Animal Foundation, and The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), among others. Notably, you’ll find some nations with the same percentages on our list of countries with the highest rates of vegetarians. In that case, we graded them based on their population sizes to tiebreak them. For example, a 10% vegetarian population in Brazil is significantly higher than the 10% vegetarians in Taiwan, so we will rank the country with the bigger population higher.
According to our findings, here are the top countries with the most people eating plant-based diets:
Vegetarian Population: 6.9%
The influence of Buddhism in Singapore, which advocates non-violence towards animals, has been instrumental in shaping the country’s dietary choices. Also, the nation’s urbanized landscape limits its agricultural sector; most food, including vegetarian food, is imported. This reality has also led to a growing trend towards plant-based diets because of their lower environmental impact.
Vegetarian Population: 7%
Belgium is one of the countries leading in vegetarianism, reflecting a global trend towards plant-based diets. As of 2023, approximately 7% of the country’s population is vegetarian. Interestingly, Ghent, a city in Belgium, is renowned for its ‘Veggie Thursday’ initiative as it promotes vegetarian meals once a week. This city also hosts a high number of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants per capita. Moreover, Belgian policymakers have recognized the need to promote vegetarian diets, as some schools and public institutions offer vegetarian options or even full vegetarian menus.
Vegetarian Population: 7.2%
Canada is also amongst the countries with the highest rates of vegetarians, owing to the population’s health-conscious choices. The country’s diverse culture is rich in varied dietary traditions and promotes a broad acceptance of plant-based diets. Moreover, Canada’s robust agricultural sector is admired for its high-quality grains, pulses, and fruits and vegetables. Such reliable agricultural standards also support the popularity of vegetarian diets. Sustainability goals and public health campaigns have also played a significant role in pushing forward the veg movement.
Vegetarian Population: 8.4%
Vegetarianism in Poland has steadily gained traction due to growing health and environmental awareness among Poles. A report from HappyCow, a service that lists vegan and vegetarian eateries globally, ranked Warsaw 9th in terms of vegetarian-friendly cities. Warsaw is a hotspot for plant-based cuisine as it offers close to 70 vegetarian and vegan establishments within a 10km radius. Yong Poles have shown an increasing inclination towards vegetarianism, spurred by ethical considerations.
Vegetarian Population: 8.9%
Italy is deeply rooted in its rich culinary traditions and has been increasingly embracing vegetarianism. The shift reflects the nation’s traditional “cucina povera” philosophy, where dishes are based on locally sourced, seasonally available ingredients. The prevalence of plant-centric dishes, like risotto, pasta, and vegetable antipasti, is also linked to Italy’s robust agricultural sector, which is rich in vineyards, olive groves, and vegetable farms.
Vegetarian Population: 9%
Norway’s percentage of vegetarians is reported to be 9 as of 2023, as the people are opting for a plant-based lifestyle because of ethical concerns. To cater to this dietary shift, the food industry in Norway has expanded its vegetarian and vegan offerings. While traditional Norwegian cuisine is known for its meat and seafood dishes, it has been reimagined with plant-based alternatives to stamp the country’s commitment to sustainability.
Vegetarian Population: 9.1%
In Japan, vegetarianism traces its roots in the Buddhist principle of ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence, which inspired a meat-free diet. Currently, 9.1% of Japanese people consume a meat-free diet. However, a big percentage of modern Japanese cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, owing to Western influences post-World War II and the readily-available fast food choices. Pure vegetarian or vegan options could be challenging to find outside major cities like Tokyo or Kyoto. Misunderstandings about vegetarianism also exist in the country, as fish-based products are often included in ‘vegetarian’ meals. Nevertheless, there’s a growing trend towards plant-based foods in Japan.
Vegetarian Population: 9.8%
Vegetarianism in Jamaica is deeply ingrained because of the influence of Rastafarianism, a religion that promotes an “ital” lifestyle. The ital beliefs involve the consumption of natural, plant-based foods, often locally sourced, to dent colonial legacy. Also, the prevalence of fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, and legumes, contributes to a culture where vegetarianism thrives. Moreover, Jamaican dishes often focus on plant-based ingredients like callaloo, ackee, and pigeon peas. A 2017 survey suggested that nearly 10% of the Jamaican population self-identified as vegetarians.
12. New Zealand
Vegetarian Population: 9.9%
New Zealand has a substantially-sized livestock industry, but the country has experienced a significant trend towards vegetarianism. As of 2023, 9.9% of the population follows a vegetarian or vegan diet, owing to concerns over animal welfare and recognition of the health benefits of veg foods. Innovative local companies are meeting the growing demand with plant-based meat substitutes and dairy alternatives.
Vegetarian Population: 10%
Denmark has a meat-centric cuisine, but there’s an evident preference for vegetarianism. Culturally, this change can be attributed to the emphasis on health consciousness and environmental sustainability. Also, the country’s agricultural sector, primarily its fertile lands, and technologically advanced farming, supports an ample production of plant-based foods. From cosmopolitan cities like Copenhagen, where vegetarian restaurants flourish, to rural areas, vegetarianism is gradually gaining acceptance.
Vegetarian Population: 10%
Germany ranks 10th amongst countries with the most people eating plant-based diets, as roughly 10% of Germans self-identified as vegetarians. Major cities like Berlin have become renowned for their vegetarian and vegan-friendly eateries to mark Germany’s commitment to this lifestyle. Plus, the country’s food industry has adapted to the demand by offering plant-based substitutes to meat products and is now contributing to Germany’s status as a major force in Europe’s vegetarian movement.
Vegetarian Population: 10.1%
Vietnam has a Buddhist heritage, which encourages compassion towards all beings. Consequently, such beliefs lead to vegetables-based dietary preferences, evidenced by 10% of the Vietnamese population adhering to vegetarianism. The cuisine features an abundance of fresh vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, and flavorful herbs that don’t let food get boring, even for meat lovers. Cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi host vegetarian restaurants and “chay” shops that serve vegetarian and vegan versions of Vietnamese dishes.
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Disclosure: None. 20 Countries With Highest Rates Of Vegetarians is originally published at Insider Monkey.