The best of 2017
As the year draws to an end we’ve selected Eating Better’s Top Ten of 2017. Check out the campaigns, companies, and research that we are celebrating for championing less & better meat and encouraging more plant-based eating for our health and the health of our planet.
1. Flexitarians rule! Flexitarianism has been one of the most striking food trends of 2017. With our YouGov research finding 44% of Brits this year willing or already committed to cutting down, many companies are wasting no time in recognising this burgeoning market. In May, our research: The Future of Eating is Flexitarian highlighted over 20 companies leading the way. Since then, Tesco has linked up with ‘plant pusher’ chef Derek Sarno, Pret has grown its Not Just for Veggies outlets and even meat-heavy McDonald’s is getting in on the act – trialling its first vegan burger (the McVegan) – albeit in Finland.
2. Chefs choose better: Eat less and choose better for the meat you do eat – that’s our message. This year we congratulate the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s More Veg Better Meat campaign that has encouraged nearly 2,000 restaurants to flip the menu and make veg the star and serving ‘better’ meat that’s higher welfare, locally sourced or grass-fed, in responsible portion sizes. Chefs’ hats off to SRA members who’ve taken the More Veg Better Meat pledge!
3. Keep it grass fed: 2017 saw grass-fed meat and dairy big in the news offering a more natural and nutritious way to produce beef, lamb and milk. It may not be the panacea for addressing climate change that some would wish for, but neither is intensively produced meat. This year, our friends at the Pasture Fed Livestock Association have brought together a growing number of farmers committed to 100% grass-fed production. Enjoy the difference – but as with any meat, enjoy it in small amounts!
4. Joining the dots between threatened wildlife and livestock. It’s not always obvious how the world’s ever growing demand for cheap meat threatens the survival of iconic wildlife and habitats. So congratulations to Compassion in World Farming and WWF-UK this year for joining the dots and bringing together renowned experts at their Extinction and Livestock conference. If you care about wildlife, and haven’t already done so, then Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were by CiWF’s Philip Lymbery, is 2017’s must read.
5. Healthy for us, healthy for the planet. Congratulations to the British Dietetic Association – the professional body for UK dietetians - for their work to make nutrition more sustainable with their new policy statement on sustainable diets. And also congratulations to France and Belgium for following in the steps of the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany to integrate sustainability – and reduced meat messaging - into their national dietary guidelines this year.
6. The future is plant-rich. 2017 has seen investors getting increasingly savvy about the future of meat. This year the FAIRR initiative warned investors of the environmental and social risks increasingly associated with the meat industry – and factory farming in particular, from antibiotic resistance to environmental impacts. With the prospect that meat could become the ‘new fossil fuel’, meat companies are already seeing which way the wind is blowing. This year saw Maple Leaf Foods – Canada’s largest packaged meat company invest in a plant-protein company as part of its commitment to becoming the most sustainable protein company in the world.
7. Watch your language. We love this 2017 research commissioned by our friends, the Better Buying Lab at the World Resources Institute, which finds that the language to describe non-meat options can make or break its success in the marketplace. Out with ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ - perceived as too worthy by many – and in with ‘plant-based’ and the language of indulgence, deliciousness and fun. We agree, much more appealing.
8. Meat and climate: not on everyone’s agenda in 2017 but certainly on ours. This year’s climate talks in Bonn (COP23) in November were pretty low key but with time running out to ensure we avoid dangerous climate change, we need to talk about meat. At least we can congratulate former US President, Barack Obama, this year for speaking up on this vital issue.
9. Brexit: We can hardly end the year without mentioning the big issue of 2017, and no doubt 2018 – Brexit. Whether it’s public concern over chlorine washed-chicken, or maintaining the UK’s high animal welfare standards, meat is becoming a major battle ground in the Brexit rhetoric. We potentially have an historic opportunity to reshape our food and farming system so that it delivers better for our health, the environment, animal welfare and for providing livelihoods from sustainable farming. Working with our alliance organisations our Beyond the CAP: policies to support better UK meat and dairy production post-Brexit sets out a way forward, that we want to see embedded into next year’s Agriculture Bill. We’re also supporting Sustain’s Better Food Britain campaign.
10. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: last but not least, we’d like to say a huge thank you to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for granting a further 3 years core funding for the Eating Better alliance. And also a huge thank you to all those that we work with to ensure a fairer, greener and healthier future for our food and farming. This is an exciting phase for Eating Better and we look forward to your support in 2018 and beyond.