Authorities must do more to support desire to eat less meat

Image of happy people with grocery bags of vegetables

Governments and food companies are not doing enough to encourage people to eat less meat, despite the well documented benefits to people and planet – and the public’s evident willingness to do so.

That’s the conclusion of a new report published by Eating Better, an alliance of organisations dedicated to creating sustainable food and farming systems.

The report – Let’s talk about meat: changing dietary behaviour for the 21st century – makes use of a YouGov survey commissioned by Eating Better and Friends of the Earth that the meat-reducing message is getting through to increasing numbers of people.

According to the survey, one in three people (35 per cent) is willing to consider eating less meat, while in the last year one in five (20 per cent) has already cut back on the amount of meat they eat.

As underlined in a report the same week by Chatham House, however, they are doing so less because of meat’s harmful impact on the environment due to livestock production than because of the health benefits of eating less, as well as animal welfare and saving money.

Chatham House found that consumers were not making the connection between meat and climate change, though most said they would be willing to cut back for that reason. The YouGov survey revealed that only 28 per cent of people agree that livestock production has a significant impact on the environment.

Eating Better recommends that government publish official advice and dietary guidance on reducing meat consumption to educate people about the issue, while food businesses should make low meat and meat free options for available, affordable and attractive to consumers.

Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth and Eating Better said: “Governments and food companies have been slow to act on meat consumption, despite growing evidence of the benefits of eating less and public willingness to do so. They must now show real leadership and work with health bodies and civil society organisations to help people change their diets.”

“Eating less meat is a simple way for people to benefit their health and the health of the planet,” said Sue Dibb, Eating Better coordinator and the author of the report. “Significant numbers of people are waking up to the message of flexitarian eating by having meat free days.”

Eating Better is supported by organisations including Compassion in World Farming, Friends of the Earth, the Vegetarian Society and Fairfood International.

Read the report.