Our new report Let’s Talk About Meat identifies 10 ways to motivate behaviour change towards more plant-based diets and ‘less and better’ meat eating.
Strong evidence now exists of the need to shift diets towards reduced levels of meat-eating among high consuming countries like the UK to help address climate change, promote public health and help feed the world more fairly and humanely.
But understanding how to achieve this dietary behaviour change has not yet received the attention it deserves.
Our new report: Let’s Talk About Meat:changing dietary behaviour for the 21st century aims to stimulate engagement and action towards addressing this important question.
Eating Better has undertaken a review of relevant consumption patterns, trends, and people’s attitudes and behaviours. We identify ten drivers that could provide opportunities for encouraging dietary shifts – summarised below.
Ten Drivers for Change:
Much of our day-to-day food habits are routine in that we eat often and without much deliberation. However habits are open to influence. Although eating patterns can follow a routine, they are not set in stone.
Opportunities: Food companies and caterers to provide non-meat or lower-meat choices that are good value, accessible and desirable tasty choices.
2. Cultural significance of meat eating
Meat holds cultural importance for many people for whom it is seen as an essential part of a meal. In many cultures there is an association between masculinity and meat eating
Opportunities: Traditional diets based on low meat/plant-based eating e.g. Mediterranean diet, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines can provide inspiration.
Regardless of socio-economic grouping, price is a primary consideration for food shoppers. Meat is typically among the most expensive food items in people’s shopping baskets.
Opportunities: Lower meat diets can save money and enable ‘better’ meat choices within the same budget.
The trend towards convenience has been a major influence on food purchasing habits, encouraged by lack of time, skills or interest to cook.
Opportunities: Food companies and the food service sector can offer more non-meat and lower meat meal alternatives. Education to include cooking skills for plant-based eating.
5. Interest in health
Health concerns tend to rate higher than environmental concerns in motivating dietary behaviour change, and interest in health offers a potential opportunity for modifying behaviour towards less and better (healthier) meat and more plant-based eating.
Opportunities: for public health messages to promote the health benefits of lower meat and plant-based diets, together with myth busting information on the nutritional adequacy of lower/non meat eating e.g. protein and iron. Reducing meat, rather than eliminating it completely can offer nutritional reassurance.
6. Awareness of the environmental impacts
Awareness of the environmental impacts of producing and consuming meat is increasing. Yet, when compared to other ‘food and sustainability’ issues, such as packaging, awareness is low and can be a barrier to change.
Opportunities: for awareness raising campaigns, information, education and better labelling (where appropriate).
7. Concern for animal welfare
Animal welfare issues are increasingly important to consumers, have received high profile media attention, and provide an opportunity for engaging the public on less and better meat consumption.
Opportunities: to link animal welfare concerns to wider environmental and health concerns to encourage less and better meat eating. Food companies and caterers to offer greater provision and promotion of meat produced to higher animal welfare standards.
8. Interest in provenance and traceability
The horsemeat scandal raised awareness of meat traceability and provenance and the ‘local food’ movement is supporting local producers and helping connect people with where their food comes from.
Opportunities: to connect people with where their food comes from and the people that produce it, and offer higher quality/taste, environmental, welfare standards and better returns to producers/local economy. Food retailers and caterers, to include ‘local’ distinctiveness as part of ‘better’ meat offer.
9. Knowledge about alternatives to meat
Lack of knowledge of ‘meat-free’ recipes and the predicted reluctance of other family members have been identified as barriers to making changes.
Opportunities: The growth in meat replacement and meat alternative market provides opportunities to help consumers transition to a lower meat diet.
10. Food scares
Food scares make regular headlines: in 2014 Campylobacter in chicken, last year it was concern for horsemeat contamination in ready meals and burgers. Previously BSE, and Foot and Mouth Disease have had major impacts on the meat industry. While food scares raise awareness of the less palatable aspects of meat production and processing, and create short-term changes in consumption, there is less evidence that they produce significant long term behaviour change for the majority of the public.
Opportunities: for food scares to provide an opportunity to raise awareness of ‘better’ meat choices or alternatives to meat.
Let’s talk about meat: changing dietary behaviour for the 21st century by Sue Dibb and Dr Ian Fitzpatrick is published by Eating Better, 3 December 2014. Copies can be downloaded here (pdf).