Veganism is on the rise in the home of ‘churrasco’

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vegan school Veganism is on the rise in the home of churrasco

Is veganism going mainstream in Brazil?

Brazil’s famous barbecue-style meat, ‘churrasco’, is famous enough to make appearances in restaurants across the world, popping up on menus everywhere from London to Shanghai. And as Brazil is one of the world’s biggest meat producers, increasing numbers of vegans might seem unexpected.

Nonetheless, the number of vegans and vegetarians across Brazil is growing. In April this year, Ibope researchers found that around 30 million Brazilians identified as either vegetarian or vegan, making up 14 percent of the population. Now, policies promoting reduced quantities of meat in the Brazilian diet are finding their way into mainstream politics.

As of March this year, four cities in Bahia state have committed to making all meals served by cafeterias in public schools vegan. Schools in Serrinha, Barroca, Teofilândia, and Biritinga have teamed up with NGO Humane Society International (HSI) and Bahia’s public prosecutors’ office in the hopes of reducing meat, egg and dairy intake by 25 percent each semester, down to zero within two years.


meat consumption in brazil veganism


“Providing our school districts with plant-based meals will help save environmental and public financial resources, allow for a future of healthy adults, and build a fair world for the animals,” said Leticia Baird, an environmental public prosecutor in Bahia who led the project.

The program, ‘Escola Sustentável’, is the first time that any Brazilian school districts have committed to providing solely plant-based food and is expected to impact approximately 23 million meals annually. Escola Sustentável’s planners believe that it will decrease the size of the city’s environmental footprint, in addition to empowering local farmers by using them to supply the schools’ cafeterias.

While these are the first Brazilian school districts to implement vegan initiatives, the cities aren’t the first to promote veganism. In 2017, three cities – Cuiabá and Várzea Grande in Mato Grosso state and São Gonçalo in Rio de Janeiro state – went vegan for a week, serving up to 5 million vegan school meals.

There are also hopes that Escola Sustentável will improve student health. The Ministry of Health says that Brazil is facing a potential obesity epidemic, with more than half the population either obese or overweight. One-third of Brazilian children between the ages of 5 and 9 are facing health risks as a result of their weight, with recent research suggesting that meat is as likely to cause obesity as sugar.

“We applaud the cities of Serrinha, Barroca, Teofilândia, and Biritinga for becoming the world’s first school districts to commit to going 100 percent plant-based,” said Sandra Lopes, a food policy manager for HSI in Brazil. “It’s an honor to have worked with city authorities, nutritionists and school cooks on the adoption and implementation of this initiative, and we’re excited to continue working closely with them to ensure the success of this program.”

Businesses branching out from food

Part of Escola Sustentável’s philosophy is that the program will create a more independent, self-sufficient food supply within the regions. The program is part of a wider consumer trend in Brazil: plant-based companies are growing by 40 percent every year in Brazil. Another objective shared by many of the country’s new vegan businesses, just like the four Bahian school districts, is to create sustainable, healthy food at an affordable price for all consumers.

Many Brazilians choosing veganism have done so for personal reasons related to their health, according to reporting from Folha. Juliana Berbet, a consultant for Brazil’s micro-business support service Sebrae, described the trend as “here to stay”.

For some, it’s also a matter of dealing with their own dietary obstacles. Carolina Caliman, a 35-year-old entrepreneur based in São Paulo, founded vegan buffet and pizzeria Pop Vegan Food in 2015 as well as her own ice-cream brand, Da Sereia, to manage her own stomach problems. “I’ve always liked to think about how to ‘veganize’ recipes,” she told Draft.

As one of the biggest megalopolises in Latin America, it is perhaps unsurprising that vegan options appear to be most popular in the city of São Paulo. But it’s far from the only city where vegan business initiatives are taking off: ‘Açougue Vegano’, a vegan butcher, now has franchises in Florianópolis as well as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Restaurants in Recife, too, are set to participate in the city’s vegan food festival later this year, which is a week-long festival set to take over the city for its third year in 2018. Meanwhile, the tech world is helping Brazil’s vegans and vegetarians find restaurants that cater to their needs through restaurant-finding apps.

Nor is Brazil’s vegan movement limited to food. Part of the annual 40 percent industry growth is actually related to another diverse industry: fashion. With new companies popping up, selling everything from footwear to makeup, analysts believe that veganism in Brazil represents a cultural shift, rather than a passing fad.

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About the author

Ciara Long

Based in Rio de Janeiro, Ciara focuses on covering human rights, culture, and politics.