A survey commissioned by the alliance and conducted by online market research firm YouGov found that while 5% of consumers are eating more meat, 20% say they are eating less meat.
This figure is slightly lower than 12 months ago, when a YouGov survey for Eating Better found that 25% of British consumers had reduced their meat consumption over the previous year.
In its report “Let’s talk about meat: changing dietary behaviour for the 21st century”, which was published today, Eating Better suggested that the higher 2013 figure was probably explained by the horsemeat scandal.
“It is likely that the higher 2013 figure reflected the impacts of the horsemeat scandal; and the continuing indication of reduction among a significant section of the public could indicate a longer term trend,” wrote Sue Dibb, the report’s author and coordinator of Eating Better.
The survey also identified a strong intent among British consumers to reduce their meat intake, with 35% of respondents saying that they were willing to eat less meat in future. This compared with 34% in the 2013 survey.
However, the report claims there is currently a lack of research into understanding how to achieve this dietary behaviour change.
“Despite this significant interest in eating less meat, our evidence review found only very limited research to directly understand the public’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards eating less meat, or that sought to understand how best to achieve this dietary transition,” wrote the report’s authors.
They highlight the “lack of policy responses” as a key gap, and call on governments and public health bodies to implement a number of recommendations. These include updating the Eatwell Plate to incorporate advice on eating less and better meat, ensuring the National Curriculum includes education on healthy and sustainable eating and funding research to support successful behaviour change strategies.
The report also recommends that food businesses should “assess the ways in which they can support dietary change to more plant-based and less and better meat eating through menu planning, reformulation, choice editing, support for farmers producing ‘better’ meat, and making low meat/meat-free options more available, affordable and attractive”.
Ten drivers for change
The review identifies ten potential drivers for motivating behaviour change towards more plant-based and ‘less and better’ meat eating.
“Promising drivers include concern for health, concern for farm animal welfare and cost savings of eating less meat,” said the report.
With only 28% of YouGov respondents agreeing that livestock production has significant impacts on the environment, concern for the environment and feeding the world more fairly were less likely to serve as drivers of behavioural change, according to the report.
Inciting international action
Eating Better said it intended to use the findings of this report to stimulate engagement with policy makers and practitioners, researchers, businesses and civil society to encourage further discussion and stimulate further research and practical initiatives.
“We will continue to engage with policy makers to encourage supportive policies at a UK, EU and global level and raise awareness with businesses of the market opportunities for more plant-based diets and less and better meat eating,” wrote the authors.