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Meat eaters return to old habits after cutbacks

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After switching to cheaper meat products to adjust to the economic downturn, some consumers are starting to return to their old eating patterns, Dutch food group VION said on June 2.

Consumers in key export markets Germany, Britain and Italy had favoured cheaper pork and poultry products over beef, lamb and veal as they cut back spending, said Marc van der Lee, a spokesman for VION, Europe’s largest meat and meat products producer.

He added that about six months after the economic crisis became a public issue, people were avoiding big purchases such as stereos and TVs, but were starting to return to normal eating habits after adjusting to the situation. Other factors, such as weather patterns, are also affecting choices.

“People are tending to go back to what they normally do,” Van der Lee said.

“You don’t skip meat off the menu. You downgrade it a bit in the beginning to see how things develop and then go back to normal when you know what the impact of this economic climate is on your personal spending power,” he said.

VION saw strong demand for meat during this winter in the Netherlands, for example, as unusually cold weather spurred demand for high-energy foods, and Van der Lee said spells of warm weather had also encouraged meat demand for barbeques.

“Pork has a pretty good market position so if the economic situation is going back to normal, pork can profit from that, as well as beef. But price will always be an important factor,” he said, referring to pork’s usual discount to beef.

He said the recent outbreak of the H1N1 influenza, which was initially referred to as swine flu, had not had any noticeable effect on pork consumption in Europe.

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