Lhe European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, announced on March 2 the launch of a European strategy for plant proteins at the start of 2024. One year after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, this is a major issue of sovereignty, because two-thirds of the vegetable proteins consumed on the continent are now imported, and 90% for soya.
But it will not be enough to produce European; consumption must also be encouraged. Indeed, vegetable proteins are used today in Europe mainly to feed livestock. Europeans eat half as many pulses as people in the rest of the world.
However, an increase in the consumption of pulses would have many benefits, for their finances (very cheap proteins), for their health (cardiovascular in particular) and for the environment (crops that do without fertilizer and enrich even the soil, a possible reduction in the number of polluting factory farms).
A matter of marketing and influencers
The European Union has the means to act, but, for the moment, it seems to focus mainly on the production aspect, as France did, with its vegetable protein plan launched in 2021, after a division by four of French consumption in twenty years. It would be a shame if Europe did not try to change eating habits more, because the rejection of these legumes is essentially due to their image.
Cheap, they are indeed frequently associated with poverty, which puts off the most modest people in particular, to the point that they now buy much less of them than the wealthiest. But many foods that used to be synonymous with hard times, even scarcity, were able to seduce the privileged classes, then the general public. Think of wholemeal bread, heirloom vegetables, still water, Levantine hummus, which was also a poor man’s meal…
Putting peasant dishes back in the spotlight
Marketing can help create desire, with the weapons of yesterday and today. Some interventions by celebrities and influencers to glamorize health-beneficial products. Gastronomic games on public channels to encourage people to cook these little-known ingredients. Innovative menus in canteens to rally children to the cause. School vegetable gardens and shared vegetable gardens encouraged to start growing these crops. Renewed training for apprentice cooks…
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