Number of young, city-dwelling vegans growing, study shows
Age and area impact dietary choices, poll shows
Younger Canadians are far more likely to be vegetarians or vegans than older generations, according to a survey that a researcher says is among the first of its kind. The poll, conducted for Dalhousie University professor Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, reported that 7.1 per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians, and 2.3 per cent consider themselves vegans — levels he says were not previously known.
“I’m not aware of a scientific study around vegetarian and vegan rates in Canada specifically,” said Charlebois, adding he believes those levels have generally stayed the same over the past decade, based on U.S. and European polls and literature.
“As we were collecting data, we started to realize that this is rich data that will help us understand where veganism and vegetarianism is going in the country.”
And in what Charlebois characterized as “mind-blowing,” the report also showed that of the Canadians who identified as vegetarians and vegans, more than half were under the age of 35.
“Those are really, really high numbers,” said Charlebois, whose research topics include food distribution and food policy.
“Even though we believe the overall rates have not gone up, they could go up over the next couple of decades as a result of seeing such a high number of young consumers committing to specialty diets .... That will actually impact food demand over the next few decades and I suspect the food industry will need to adapt.”
Charlebois said there are a number of reasons young people are committing to vegetarianism or veganism, including reducing their environmental footprint, concern over animal welfare and the industrialization of agriculture, and concern for their own health.
“A lot of studies are actually discouraging consumers from eating red meats specifically. Even the World Health Organization has made processed meats a Category 1 product, which means it could cause cancer, at the same level as asbestos,” said Charlebois.
“Health seems to be a big driver across the board. That really could entice consumers to commit to veganism or vegetarianism.”
Halifax-area restaurant worker Rylee Booroff said she chose veganism eight years ago during university for health reasons. The 26-year-old said since changing her diet, she’s noticed a shift in veganism and vegetarian culture in Canada.
People want to do the best by their bodies and being healthy is now a lifestyle. Rylee Booroff
“It’s really blown up .... I used to work at a vegan restaurant in Toronto and seeing the growth of our restaurant over the years, I could really tell that people started to take either a lot more care about what they were eating or they were just more interested in a plant-based diet.”
The results of the survey — conducted by third-party data collector Qualtrics — were based on responses from 1,049 Canadians over the age of 18 between March 6 and 9, and were considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
a survey has found that most vegans and vegetarians in canada are under 35.