Nearly two thirds (63%) of 11-18 year olds said the environment and climate change was one of their most important issues for the country in a new YouGov survey commissioned by the Eating Better Alliance. The environment and climate change is ahead of the UK leaving the EU (54%) and healthcare (42%) as one of the top issues facing the country for 11 to 18 year olds.
We commissioned the research to find out if eating habits were changing amongst teenagers in response to growing concerns around meat and climate change.
29% of 11-18 year olds who currently eat meat want to reduce their meat consumption but they don’t always find it easy to do. Eating Better through the ‘Better by half: roadmap’ aims to create an enabling environment to drive the necessary transformation in eating habits.
Whilst concern about the environment and climate change is high in this age group, the research shows that some young people feel limited in their ability to choose what they eat to help address this. Respondents who wanted to eat less meat said they wanted more meat-free options to be available in school canteens, and they don’t have any say on food shopping at home.
Older teenagers are driving a change in eating habits
18-year olds are more aware of the environment and climate change than younger teenagers. 76% of 18-year olds consider the environment and climate change to be one of their top issues, compared to 66% of 11-year olds.
18-year olds are also likely to have more freedom to choose how they eat and this is reflected in the survey, 25% are vegan or vegetarian compared to just 6% of 11-year olds.
Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better, says “We should all pay close attention to the two thirds of teenagers surveyed who recognise climate change as the biggest issue at present. Their increased awareness will impact the way they eat, shop and vote.”
We are calling for a 50% reduction from current levels of meat and dairy consumption in the UK by 2030, and for a transition to ‘better’ meat and dairy as standard. Earlier this year Eating Better launched the Better by half: roadmap which sets out 24 actions to be taken across five sectors to create a food environment where everybody is able to make food choices that are better for them and the environment.
Emily Wilson, Head of Programmes at FOUR PAWS UK, says “We have launched Make Food Kinder aimed at helping local authorities reduce the volume of meat and animal products in their public procurement. We have been thrilled to see that institutions across the country have been reducing the volume of meat they are offering and in doing so helping to fight climate change. How public money is spent involves everybody – and we want local authorities to step up and make similar commitments and help us achieve a healthier more sustainable future.”
Rob Percival, Head of Policy at Soil Association, says “This survey shows that teenagers are keen for schools to serve ‘less and better’ meat. The Government must use the ongoing update of the School Food Standards to re-balance school meals, getting more beans, pulses and plant proteins, and more sustainable, grass-fed and organic meat on the plate. We can’t shy away from the need to change diets if we’re serious about tackling the climate, nature and health crises.”
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