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Beyond Meat: Meat and Meat Alternatives in Contemporary Vietnam

10.-11. November 2022, University of Cologne


Meat is one of the most important sources of protein and a central culinary element in human diet. However, increasing meat consumption is one of the major drivers of global environmental change in terms of the greenhouse effect, global warming, soil and water pollution, forest degradation, deteriorating human health, spread of zoonotic diseases, and animal suffering (Carlsson-Kanyama and Gonzáles 2009; D'Silva and Webster 2017; Eshel et al. 2014; Poore and Nemecek 2018; Etemadi et al. 2017; Schwingshackl et al. 2017). Much of the increase in meat consumption takes place in the countries of the Global South – among them also post-socialist states, all eager to catch up with the lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent Global North (Jung et al. 2014; Lange 2016; Sans and Combris 2015).

The rise in meat consumption is especially sharp in Vietnam (Hansen 2018). Arve Hansen (2021: 100) points out that Vietnamese consumers still tend to eat less meat than the average consumer in the OECD countries. Nonetheless, Vietnamese consumers would eat much meat as compared to the average consumer in other Southeast Asian countries, as well as in relation  to average income in a global comparative perspective. Moreover, Hansen locates the increase in meat consumption not only in the amount but also in the kinds of meat consumed: while pork, the traditional favourite, has seen rapid increase since the economic restructuring of 1986, the consumption of chicken and beef has grown much faster. At the same time, however, the consumption of meat alternatives – such as: soy-/wheat-/ and mycoprotein-based products - is also rising sharply in Vietnam, and veganism is ever more popular (Avieli 2014). Consumers’ motivations for turning to meat substitutes, are quite diverse, ranging from food safety concerns over the protection of the environment to religious practices. With regards to the latter, the production and consumption of meat substitutes is a long-standing Buddhist practice with Mahayana Buddhist restaurants specialising in the culinary art of preparing food with meat alternatives, such as tofu.

In the workshop, we want to develop a joint research proposal mapping the consumption of different kinds of meat and meat alternatives in different regions in Vietnam. We aim to explore the socioeconomic and cultural reasons and meanings underlying the consumption of these meats and meat alternatives, as well as potential reasons for abstaining from meat consumption, and how these potentially relate to the aforementioned global environmental challenges.

Focusing on the case study of meat and alternative meat consumption in Vietnam and analysing consumers’ meanings and attitudes (including: ethical-environmental, cultural, socio-economic, and lifestyle drivers), we aim to contribute to a broader societal goal clarification, exploring and analyzing “factors that might propel or impede transformations towards desirable futures” (Bai et al. 2016).



  • Prof. Nir Avieli, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Ben Gurion University Israel
  • Dr. Rafi Grosglik, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Ben Gurion University Israel
  • Dr. Nora Faltmann, Department of Sociology, University of Innsbruck, Austria
  • Dr. Judith Ehlert, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Passau, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Sandra Kurfürst, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne, Germany