Consumption of Animal Products in Bulgaria: The Case for Change

Consumption of Animal Products in Bulgaria: The Case for Change

Septemvrina Kostova (University for National and World Economy, Bulgaria), Borislav Atanasov (University for National and World Economy, Bulgaria) and Dora Marinova (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4757-0.ch019
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This chapter analyses the trends in production and consumption of animal-based food products, including meat, dairy, eggs and fish, in Bulgaria between 2010 and 2015. Against decreasing population, the production of livestock, yogurt, packaged milk and cheese remained relatively stable or increased resulting in rises on a per capita basis. There was an overall 9% increase in meat consumption with 45% being pork and 72% of it being processed. This trend goes against international dietary recommendations and contributes to climate change and environmental deterioration. The consumer survey conducted in Sofia in 2017 shows limited awareness about these problems with price of meat being the dominant regulator of meat consumption. Nevertheless, there was an acknowledgement by more than half of the survey respondents that Bulgarians should cut their meat intake which is a good starting point for social marketing and encouragement to change consumption away from animal-based products.
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The food industry plays a significant role in Bulgaria’s economy (Slavova, 2016). During 2010-2015, this economic sector of the country grew at a stable rate and its industrial output reached 15.2% in 2015 (NSI, 2017c) compared to 14.6% in 2011 (NSI, 2013). In 2015, the production of the Bulgarian food industry was worth BGN9.8 billion (NSI, 2017c) or US$5.87 billion, BGN7.9 billion or US$4.77 billion were direct agricultural products, such as grains, fruits and vegetables, livestock and animal products (NSI, 2017a).

Industry decisions related to production volumes and efficiency are made in an economic environment which is often uncertain and volatile (Todorov & Smallbone, 2014) but also driven by consumer preferences. Such decisions pursue better development opportunities, niche markets and responding to demand and people’s preferences as well as dealing with uncertainty and risk. The food sector in Bulgaria has increased the supply of some products in response to growing export opportunities and more aggressive penetration of foreign producers. This industry has rapidly adjusted to the economic conditions in Bulgaria.

The three main sectors of the Bulgarian food industry are: grain-related products, including bread (traditionally a staple commodity), meat and livestock products and other foods, including fruits, vegetables, sugar products and preserves. Following the transition to a market economy in the 1990s and later integration within the European Union, the food industry required significant restructuring related to values of outputs, assets, investment and management of human resources. In response to the low purchasing power of the Bulgarian consumers after the disintegration of the Eastern Block, producers sought price reductions at the expense of product quality, poor hygienic conditions in production and breaches in the technological requirements resulting in inconsistencies in taste, texture and other attributes (Slavova, 2016). With improvement in living standards in Bulgaria, nowadays the country’s food sector has become more competitive domestically and internationally offering a variety of products, improved packaging and better sanitary conditions in production (Boeva, 2008).

Of particular interest to this chapter are the changes that occurred in Bulgaria during 2010–2015, after the country joined the expanded European Union (as of 1 January 2007) and opened its economy to western markets and influences. The traditional Bulgarian diet involves high consumption of bread and grain-based products, fruits and vegetables as well as limited intake of animal products, such as dairy, eggs and animal meat. According to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, its followers should voluntarily abstain from the consumption of animal-based products for 200 days in a year which includes each Wednesday and each Friday as well as four extended periods of lent or fasting (Pravoslavie, 2009). This is seen as spiritual and physical manifestation of the individual’s power against sinning and desire to do good. With the industrialisation of the country since the mid-1940s under a socialist development model and later the introduction of the market economy in the 1990s, many changes occurred in the Bulgarian diet which particularly affected the consumption of animal-based products. Such products have become a daily presence on the Bulgarian table. Although the consumption of animal-based foods in Bulgaria continues to be middle-of-the-range on a world scale, the country’s population is certainly no longer following the prescribed 200 days per year of abstention. Hence, this dietary transition is contributing to climate change and global environmental deterioration as well as negatively impacting people’s health.

After analysing the trends in the production of livestock products in Bulgaria, the chapter looks at national consumption patterns. The next section reports results from an exploratory survey which asked Bulgarian customers about the reasons for them to consume animal products. We then examine the marketing of animal-based products and discuss opportunities for interventions which educate and influence the Bulgarian consumer about the health and environmental co-benefits of keeping the intake of such foods within the limits prescribed by the traditional diet.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Exploratory Survey: A study based on a survey whose aim is to provide insights on a previously unexplored topic and which does not pursue statistical representativeness of the results.

Poultry: Animal flesh for human consumption which is lighter in colour when cooked and usually is associated with chickens, hens, turkeys, ducks and geese generally referred to as white meat.

Lactobacillus Bulgaricus: One of several gram-positive bacteria used in the production of yogurt; it is found originally in the gastrointestinal tract of some animals living in Bulgaria but is also grown artificially, including one strain extracted from the leaves of the snowdrop flower.

Abstention or Abstinence: Choosing to restrain consumption.

Red Meat: Animal flesh for human consumption which is dark brown when cooked and usually associated with livestock animals, such as cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and buffaloes, but also with animals, such as camels, horses, kangaroos, dears, rabbits, emus and ostriches.

Free Range Animals: Animals raised in conditions which allow them to roam freely in open air for at least part of the day; different countries have various regulations about the time and space available to the animals to be outdoors.

Hybrid Consumer: A consumer who generally seeks for cheap (value, budget, low-end, generic or discount) products and services but also opts for expensive (premium or high-end) options on particular occasions or for certain types of needs.

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