The Eating Better alliance – launched in 2013 with the backing of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - this week published a new report looking at British attitudes to meat.
The report - 'Let’s Talk About Meat: changing dietary behaviour for the 21st century' – includes the findings of a new YouGov survey, which found that one in one in five Brits (20 per cent) have already cut back on the amount of meat they eat and a further 35 per cent are willing to consider eating less meat.
Concerns over health, animal welfare and cost were the biggest factors driving this trend, with concern for climate change, the environment and food security less significant.
Less and better
The report noted that the hospitality sector is already engaging with the ‘less and better’ meat message, with initiatives such as Pizza Hut’s ‘Meat-Free Monday’ menu gaining traction, top chefs putting vegetables at the centre of the plate and a 50 per cent increase in the number of vegetarian restaurants in the UK since 2007.
However, it said operators need to do more to make low meat and meat-free options ‘available, affordable and attractive’ as well as supporting farmers to produce ‘better’ meat.
“Eating less meat is a simple way for people to benefit their health and the health of the planet,” said Sue Dibb, the report’s author and coordinator of Eating Better.
“Significant numbers of people are waking up to the message of flexitarian eating by having meat-free days and enjoying better quality meat in smaller portions.
“There are also opportunities for businesses: eating less and better meat is becoming trendy thanks to top chefs putting vegetables centre-plate. But much more is needed to take this mainstream: that’s why, as our report says, we need to talk about meat.”
However, EBLEX, the organisation for beef and lamb producers in England, said that while figures suggest total meat consumption is falling slowly in the UK, demand for meat dishes in restaurants is actually on the up.
“We have seen a rise in both beef and lamb servings out of home,” Mike Whittemore, head of trade marketing for EBLEX, told BigHospitality.
“Against that background, calling on food outlets to offer more meat-free options presents a significant challenge.”
Furthermore, Whittemore said the report’s assertion that reducing meat consumption in the UK would help the nation’s health and improve global environmental performance was ‘misleading at best’.
“In the UK, our rain fed-pasture system means we have one of the most efficient and sustainable livestock production systems in the world,” he said.
“Cattle and sheep primarily convert grass into nutrient-rich food for our growing population. There are also additional environmental benefits of grazing ruminants, not least in terms of landscape management and maintaining biodiversity, which are difficult to quantify and so largely ignored in this type of report.
“A simplistic suggestion that cutting meat consumption in the UK will make an impact on the world’s environmental issues just doesn’t hold water and, what’s more, it will not improve the efficiency of livestock production in this country and could have a detrimental effect on the landscape.”