Still putting together meals while adhering to the old custom of having “meat and two veg”?
How 2016 of you, as new research shows that more than one in four Britons are now favouring a vegetarian lifestyle.
Some 28 per cent of meat-eating Brits have reduced their meat consumption in the last six months, a new report by industry analysts Mintel claims, with 14 per cent expressing interest in limiting meat and poultry in their diets in the future.
The decrease in meat-eating is particularly prevalent amongst young people, with 19 per cent of those under 25 saying that they don’t eat red meat or poultry. This rose to 25 per cent for women in this age group.
It’s a trend that’s being felt by supermarkets too, with the meat-free market set to reach £572m this year.
So why the sudden change in tune?
As the number one reason (54 per cent) for Brits choosing to avoid meat, the ethical treatment of animals clearly still plays an important role in the way we think about food. The poor farming conditions and mistreatment of animals across the world has been well-documented by popular films such as Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives.
Whilst traditionally vegetarians might have been motivated by an interest in animal welfare, many of the avocado-obsessed Brits of today are reducing their meat intake purely out of health concerns, with 49 per cent acknowledging that too much meat might be bad for their health. Endless studies have shown that meat-eaters are more susceptible to heart disease. Not to mention the new controversial Netflix documentary, What The Health, which claims that eating eggs is as bad for us as smoking cigarettes.
Coming in as the third reason for people choosing to forgo meat 29 per cent of Brits believe that cutting it out might help with weight loss goals. They’re onto something, as a recent study showed that a vegetarian diet is twice as effective for weightless as meat-driven mealplans.
Health food bloggers
The rise in online health food gurus in popular culture is more influential than you might think, with 16 per cent of Brits admitting that plant-based bloggers like Deliciously Ella have impacted their decision to avoid meat products. “Following a meat-free diet is likely to be aspirational to many consumers and social media is playing an important role in the attraction of this endeavour,” explains Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel.
Interestingly, people under 25 cited this as their leading reason for avoiding meat, whereas just 24 per cent in total of those surveyed said the same. “Flagging up that consumers are making a choice which is good for the environment and which can help to create a greener future in the long-term is likely to be a persuasive selling point,” Clifford explains. “I feel like I was actively ignorant to the meat industry before I started cutting it out,” explained 23-year-old Oenone. “I knew that if I did research into the ethics of it that it would push me towards a more plant-based diet,” the health and fitness blogger told The Independent. “I’m doing it incrementally, I’ve pretty much cut out dairy, eggs will be quite hard”, she confessed.
39 per cent of meat reducers attributed campaigns such as Meat-free Mondays – supported by Jamie Oliver – and National Vegetarian Week for their decision to forgo their meaty tendencies. According to their website, 67 per cent of people who partook in Veganuary – whereby non vegans follow a strict vegan diet for the entire month of January – will remain vegan. Plus, 97 per cent of participants reported feeling healthier, with 87 per cent claiming to feel more energised.
Everyone knows that a box of eggs is cheaper than a fillet steak, so it’s unsurprising that some Brits, particularly young ones, are simply avoiding meat as a matter of cost-effectiveness. “I’ve never been a huge meat eater but think I eat even less than I used to,” 24-year-old Lucy told The Independent. “I never buy meat at home, but if I’m out at a restaurant I might have a burger or another meaty dish, and a lot of my friends are the same. I know I’m saving money by not buying meat but that isn’t the main reason for me – nor is the environment, even though I’m pleased with that positive side too – I simply find it easier to cook vegetarian dishes and I really enjoy them. There are so many great vegetarian recipes around these days that I feel spoilt for choice and they’re so delicious,” she explained.