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Vegetarian

Meat off the menu: consumers opt for veggie dishes over health fears

By Nicholas Robinson+

18-Feb-2016
Last updated on 18-Feb-2016 at 17:55 GMT2016-02-18T17:55:49Z

Meat-free meals are a growing source of revenue for pubs
Meat-free meals are a growing source of revenue for pubs

More consumers are shunning meat in favour of vegetarian alternatives, with concerns about health as the main reason, new research from a NatCen Social Research survey claims.

The research follows the publication of the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s Vegetarian Report last month, which showed more pubs were making extra efforts to serve better vegetarian meals.

Three in 10 (29%) Brits reduced the amount of meat they ate in the last year, the survey said. While a further one in 10 were considering cutting their meat intake or quitting meat altogether, according to the Vegetarian Society-commissioned survey.

Almost half (44%) of those asked did not eat meat, have reduced the amount of meat they do eat or were preparing to reduce their meat intake.

Vegetarian Society chief executive Lynee Elliot said: “We commissioned this research because, for some time, we have noticed people are positively engaging with the idea of eating less meat, but until now there has been little academic evidence to support this.”

The results of the research reflected what the organisation saw on a daily basis, Elliot said, which was an increasing awareness from consumers about their food choices – for health, environmental or dietary reasons.

Vegetarian diet ‘easy’

A vegetarian diet could be an easy, healthy and safe way to cater to dietary needs, Elliot claimed. “And it’s clearly an option being enjoyed by a large section of the population.”

In figures:
  • 29% of Brits reduced their meat intake last year
  • 1 in 10 considered reducing their meat consumption
  • 44% asked did not eat meat
  • 34% of women reduced their meat intake
  • 23% of men reduced their meat consumption
  • 58% stopped eating meat for health reasons
  • 10% cut out meat to save money
  • 19% avoided meat for food safety reasons

More than a third of women (34%) and nearly a quarter of men (23%) had reduced their meat intake over the past 12 months.

Older people – those aged between 65 and 79 – were twice (39%) as likely to reduce their meat consumption compared with those aged 18 to 24 (19%), the report said.

There are more women in Britain who have reduced, intend to reduce or completely stopped eating meat, but with no intention of doing so, it added.

The most common reason for people intending to reduce, reducing or stopping eating meat varied from health reasons (58%) to saving money (20%) and food safety (19%), the survey claimed.

‘Many millions’

Ian Simpson, senior researcher at NatCen, said: “A significant number of people in Britain, amounting to many millions, told us that they have reduced their meat consumption over the past 12 months.

“Many people are clearly concerned about eating too much meat and the primary driver of this concern appears to be about health.”

High-profile news stories, such as research claiming processed meat is bad for health and the recent horsemeat scandal, could be behind this behaviour, Simpson added.

“Since we collected the data, the World Health Organisation has classified processed meat as carcinogenic, suggesting we may see even more people cutting down on meat in the future,” he said.

• The Vegetarian Society’s report follows the Food Standards Agency’s Our Food Future summit, which discussed what information consumers wanted about their food.

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