The Rise of Meat Eater in Việt Nam
Việtnamese cuisine is famous for its use of herbs and vegetables. Why then is meat consumption in Việt Nam increasing at astounding rates?
There is little doubt that Việtnamese diets are changing. More food is consumed than ever, and a lot more of it is meat and other animal products.
This is hardly surprising given that over the previous three decades the nation has changed from being one of Asia’s poorest to an “emerging economy,” going from a food deficit to an oversupply of food in the process. However, even though the increased meat consumption is a typical side effect of urbanization, economic expansion, and higher income, Việt Nam has experienced an unheard-of shift.
There has been a significant shift in Việtnamese dietary patterns toward a higher meat intake. Việtnamese diets were primarily composed of rice and vegetables not so long ago. Only on special occasions was meat consumed. Today, eating meat at every meal of the day is pretty typical. Compared to 30 years ago, the average Việtnamese consumes four times as much meat now.
Farming, Pho, and Fast Food
To fully comprehend what is happening, we must examine the entire supply chain from manufacturing to consumption.
Let’s start on the farm. Since the Đổi Mới economic reforms of 1986, Việt Nam’s agricultural output has seen tremendous growth. However, whereas rice and coffee have received much attention, meat has mostly been ignored. The output of the cattle industry in Việt Nam has increased dramatically. Livestock production currently accounts for one-third of the nation’s total agricultural output after growing more quickly than crop production.
Furthermore, an increasing amount of the meat consumed in Việt Nam is produced by farmers abroad. Along with new trade agreements, imports of meat from various nations, particularly the United States and India, have skyrocketed. These imports primarily consist of chicken and beef. Even live animals are reportedly being imported from Australia to Việt Nam for home slaughter.
Slaughterhouses are now bigger and more productive to move through the value chain. A significant expansion in supermarkets, mini-marts, street kitchens, quick food outlets, and restaurants has also boosted the availability of meat on the retail side. But unless people truly choose to consume more meat, none of this will matter, of course.
A Growing Meat Culture
The importance of meat as a part of Việtnamese consumers’ diets has increased even though it is used in a variety of ways. Some traditions are rather visible, like the emergence of expensive steakhouses where wealthy Vietnamese can easily spend an employee’s monthly salary on a plate of imported steak and a glass of foreign red wine. One instance of a subtle development is the steadily rising proportion of meat in street food.
For instance, the well-known pho used to contain scant amounts of beef (or chicken), if any at all. Now, some customers are griping that the soup contains too much meat. While pork continues to be the undisputedly most popular type of meat, consumption of beef and poultry is rising at a quicker rate, which is another indication of changing eating habits.
Steakhouses and pho lead us to a significant aspect of the intensification of meat in Việtnamese diets. According to studies, people in all nations and cultures tend to consume more meat when eating out than when eating at home. In Việt Nam, a normal family supper now contains meat, though frequently only as a minor portion of a larger meal that also includes rice, vegetables, and occasionally seafood. However, Vietnamese have eaten out significantly more frequently recently than in the past.
These new restaurants include fast food outlets like McDonald’s and Burger King. But it might be argued that “Eastern” influences outweigh “Western” ones. For instance, BBQ establishments with a heavy emphasis on meat in the Japanese and Korean styles are trendy.
Meat as Progress
Despite this, a lot of Việtnamese are cutting back on their meat consumption, largely for health reasons, though some are also doing this out of concern for the environment or animal rights. Young urban middle-class people are increasingly becoming vegetarians, much to the surprise and scorn of their parents and grandparents who remember a time when meat was a luxury.
For many, meat is a sign of progress in a nation where even the wealthiest segments of the populace can still clearly recall times of great shortage. Therefore, while wealthier Việtnamese may reduce their use of meat, many can just now afford it. Thus, it is very likely that meat consumption in Việt Nam will rise even more along with rising vegetarianism.