A meaty challenge
In this article we catch up with Trewin Restorick from Eating Better alliance partner Hubbub. We wanted to find out the impact of ‘Meat Your Match,’ which was launched in March 2018, it challenged a group of men to halve the amount of meat in their diets by exploring more plant-based protein sources. This is what Trewin had to say:
At some point we have to confront the fact that the rate at which we are eating meat is not sustainable. It is a thorny issue for environmental groups fearful of being seen as worthy do-gooders slowly stripping away everyday pleasures.
To be true to Hubbub’s charitable purpose we had to talk about meat but were aware that it could run counter to the playful, positive approach we take to engaging a mainstream audience. How could we square the circle?
The first step was to explore the importance of eating meat within our society. Through research with the University of Southampton we discovered why meat is an important dietary component for many. There were health concerns that cutting down on meat would not provide sufficient protein especially for children. Making meals without meat was seen as less convenient requiring more time and new skills. Cultural pressures were significant with many believing that a meal is not complete without meat – especially when cooking for friends and family. Finally, taste is crucial with our heritage linked closely to the smell and texture of meat eating.
Environmental issues were less of a driver. Many people were aware of animal welfare issues but didn’t feel inclined to explore too closely. Very much a case of what you don’t know won’t harm you. People wanted to eat responsibly and were highly reliant on labels to guide them in their decisions.
The research highlighted the complexity of our connection with high meat diets and Hubbub decided to respond by creating a series of small scale trials enabling us to learn fast and experiment.
The first campaign, Meat your Match challenged male gym enthusiasts to replace half of their animal-based protein with plant-based protein. A male audience was selected because the majority of men exceed guidance on daily consumption of red and processed meat. Research indicates that for many men eating meat is embedded into their culture. Men are also susceptible to “protein fever” which has bolstered a multibillion-pound protein supplement industry.
Hubbub took a collaborative approach working in partnership with BaxterStorey. Their willingness to become involved was driven by two factors: A knowledge that if people feel physically and mentally well they perform better. A desire to demonstrate commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals which will require a significant reduction in meat consumption.
A group of 18 volunteer Nationwide employees took part in the 'Protein Challenge'. Each volunteer received a Garmin fitness tracker and a consultation with a nutritional practitioner. This consultation provided each with a personalised, accessible and tasty meal plan, helping them to meet their fitness objectives and complete the protein challenge. Hubbub provided on-going support and tracked progress over a two month period.
After the two months 80% of participants successfully halved the amount of meat they ate, with 86% of these going on to say they are likely to continue to reduce their meat intake as a result of the challenge.
All participants reported improvements in health including better digestive health, sleeping better and feeling less tired. Attitudes towards meat shifted with 41.5% of participants saying they'd be likely to order a vegetarian meal when out at a restaurant with friends compared with just 5.56% before the trial. Everyone who took part had a positive experience of the challenge, and 85% would recommend the challenge to their friends and colleagues.
Meat your Match has proved that with a structured approach built upon academic research it is possible to persuade people to change diet. The success of the campaign was the result of creating a challenge setting, providing personalised guidance, enabling people to monitor their progress and be part of a wider group offering peer-to-peer support.
From Hubbub’s viewpoint the important thing about the trial is that it can be taken to scale. The campaign could be run in any large businesses who are looking to help employees eat more healthily and to reduce environmental impact. The trial approach could also be extended to different audiences and genders
If you are interested in learning more and taking part in the next trial please do get in touch. Trewin@hubbub.org.uk
Find out more about the #MeatYourMatch challenge and results here.
We first heard about ‘Meat Your Match when it was launched in March this year, and caught up with them in July when the men involved in the project shared their stories.
Photo by Hubbub.