The ‘Eating Better’ campaign is supported by 25 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and partners, and is backed by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It aims to promote less meat consumption of all kinds – including red, white and processed meat – and to help people adopt more plant-based diets. In addition, it aims to support animal farming methods that are humane, and beneficial to health and the environment.
“Feeding a growing and more affluent global population healthily, fairly and sustainably simply isn’t possible unless we make significant changes,” said Clare Oxborrow, Eating Better chair, and Friends of the Earth’s senior food and farming campaigner. “One vital, simple step for people in the UK is to eat less and better meat and a greater variety of plant-based foods.”
It is a position shared by the parliamentary International Development Committee, which said in a recent report that consumers should be encouraged to eat less meat. It said that a 'massive increase' in meat consumption in rich countries had led to spikes in grain prices, increased deforestation and pressure on agricultural land, and also urged a shift to more pasture-fed meat.
By avoiding meat even for one or two days per week, consumers could help to ease these pressures, the report said.
However, the Meat Advisory Panel – a group of dietary experts supported by the beef, sheep and pig farming industries – has said that reducing meat consumption could have unintended consequences.
The MAP’s Dr Carrie Ruxton said: “Red meat intakes in the UK are not high (only 76g on average day) and most UK consumers have intakes well within acceptable limits…Red meat – defined as beef, veal, pork and lamb, which is fresh, minced or frozen – is a source of essential micronutrients. In particular, red meat is the main source of haem iron – the type of iron that is best absorbed - and data show that average iron intakes in the UK are inadequate, especially among women and girls.”
The Eating Better group also claims that the recent horse meat scandal has led people to become more discerning about the meat they buy. It defines ‘better meat’ as pasture fed, organic, and/or that produced to higher animal welfare standards.
“An Eating Better approach does not need to be more expensive for consumers,” it said. “Cutting down on the number of meat meals per week means people can spend the same amount of money on better quality meat and a greater diversity of plant based foods.”
Supporting organisations include WWF-UK, The Soil Association, the British Dietetic Association and the Food Ethics Council, among others.