A long-standing German meat-producing family business, Ruegenwalder Muehle, was consciously moving towards becoming a manufacturer of vegetarian alternatives, the company’s Managing Director Godo Roeben announced on Monday.
“Now is the time to eat 50 percent fewer animals,” Roeben told the German Press Agency (dpa).
“If you look at the last 50 years in the industry, you have to admit, we just made everything bigger, faster, more efficient,” noted Roeben.
Ten years ago, it was already foreseeable “that we would have three huge problems in our product range, which would grow from year to year, animal suffering, health and climate change,” according to the head of the German meat producer.
On September 1, the company based in northern Lower Saxony officially ended the production of its meat curry sausage because it “needs more space for its vegetarian products,” said Roeben.
When Ruegenwalder Muehle first introduced its veggie products five years ago, “of course there was great resistance,” Roeben told the dpa.
A glance at the business figures, however, showed that there was a market for meat replacement products.
Ruegenwalder Muehle currently generated 35 to 38 percent of its turnover with vegetarian products and “will definitely achieve the target of 40 percent next year,” emphasized Roeben.
Moreover, the German company’s meat processing had declined by an average of three percent over the past four years as these capacities were needed for vegan and vegetarian products.
But the issue of meat-free nutrition remains polarizing in Germany, a country where the average inhabitant consumes around 60 kilograms of meat a year, according to the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE).
Back in 2013, the German Greens announced to introduce a nationwide vegetarian day after the Bundestag elections.
The proposal would have meant that once a week in all public canteens in Germany, there would be no meat dish or sauces.
The Green Party’s suggestion was not received well by German voters and the party quickly became associated with being the banning party.
Three years ago, former German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) promoted a ban on product names such as vegetarian schnitzel or vegan currywurst because the terms were “completely misleading and unsettling to consumers”.
The German government and other politicians have been debating ways to improve national climate protection measures, including introducing a meat tax or a higher value-added tax (VAT) rate on meat in order to improve livestock conditions and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Roeben emphasized that instead of just calling for people to renounce meat, customers should be offered good alternatives because “telling people what to eat does not work”.