Quarter of public have cut back on meat in the last year

READY MEALS, and processed meat off the menu as generational shift in British diet becomes evident.

  • 25% of British public say they are eating less meat than a year ago
  • 34% are willing to consider eating less meat
  • One in six (17%) young people say they don’t eat any meat


A quarter of the British public say they have cut back on the amount of meat they eat over the past year, new research for the Eating Better alliance revealed today. Only 2% say they are eating more.


The YouGov survey of the British public commissioned by the Eating Better alliance found around one in three (34%) say they are willing to consider eating less meat, with a quarter (25%) saying they have already cut back on the amount of meat they eat over the last year. Ready meals, and processed meats are most likely to be off the menu. Eating Better says this suggests the public remain wary, following the horsemeat scandal, of cheaper meats that are likely to be less healthy, of unknown origin and poorer quality.


Concern for animal welfare topped the reasons for considering eating less meat, ahead of saving money, food quality/safety and health.


“We’re delighted that more and more people are waking up to the benefits of eating less and better meat for health, animal welfare, the environment, farmers as well as saving money,” says Vicki Hird of Friends of the Earth and Chair of Eating Better alliance. “Food companies must take note and do more to help people switch to healthier, sustainable diets.”


The survey found a large increase in awareness of the significant environmental impacts of producing and eating meat from just one in seven people (14%) in a YouGov survey for Friends of the Earth in 2007 (3) to nearly one in three (31%) in 2013.


The most dramatic change has been in young people (aged 18-24) where there has been a five fold increase in awareness from just 8% in 2007 to 40% today. Young people were nearly 3 times more likely to say they don’t eat any meat at all – compared to the survey’s average – with one in six (17%) of young people saying they don’t eat any meat.


Despite rising food prices, around half those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for ‘better’ meat if it tastes better, is healthier, produced to higher animal welfare standards or provides better financial returns to farmers. Willingness to pay more was not restricted to higher (ABC1) social grade groups.


“This survey shows that despite the rising cost of food, many people are prepared to put values before value for money. The horsemeat scandal showed where a race to the bottom leads. This is good news for farmers, as well as the health of the public and the health of the planet, “ Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University.


The survey found support for more information and better labelling including country of origin and how animals are reared. Two out of three people (67%) agreed it is hard to tell which meat is more environmentally friendly.


Eating Better wants to encourage a culture where we place greater value on the food we eat, the animals that provide it and the people who produce it and is calling for action by governments and the food industry to:

  • Help people adopt diets that are better for people and the planet: by encouraging diets with a greater variety of plant-based foods and less meat (red, white and processed).
  • Support farming that produces meat in ways that benefit the environment, health and animal welfare.