‘Brits cut back on meat after horsemeat scandal’

A quarter of Brits have cut back on eating meat over the past year in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, a survey shows.

Research from the Eating Better campaign, published on Monday (4 November), found 25% of respondents have cut back on the amount of meat they have eaten over the past 12 months.

While about one-third (34%) say they are willing to consider eating less meat, only 2% say they are eating more.

Ready meals and processed meats are most likely to be off the menu, which suggests that following the horsemeat scandal the public remains wary of cheaper meats that are likely to be less healthy, of unknown origin and poorer quality.

Concern for animal welfare topped the reasons for considering eating less meat, ahead of saving money, food quality/safety and health, the YouGov survey of 1,819 adults showed.

Vicki Hird, of Friends of the Earth (FoE) and chair of the Eating Better alliance, said: “Food companies must take note and do more to help people switch to healthier, sustainable diets.”

Young people were nearly three times more likely to say they don’t eat any meat at all – compared to the survey’s average – with one in six (17%) of young people saying they don’t eat any meat.

Despite rising food prices, about half those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for “better” meat if it tastes better, is healthier, produced to higher animal welfare standards or provides better financial returns to farmers. Willingness to pay more was not restricted to higher social grade groups.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, said: “This survey shows that despite the rising cost of food, many people are prepared to put values before value for money.

“The horsemeat scandal showed where a race to the bottom leads. This is good news for farmers, as well as the health of the public and the health of the planet.”

The survey also found support for more information and better labelling including country of origin and how animals are reared. Two out of three people (67%) agreed it is hard to tell which meat is more environmentally friendly.

However, EBLEX, the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England, said the survey’s findings were not representative of the bigger picture.

“We certainly haven’t seen any noticeable reduction in beef and lamb consumption over the past year,” said a spokeswoman for EBLEX.

“In fact, the latest Kantar Worldpanel data for the 52 weeks ending 13 October shows that combined beef and lamb volume sales are up 1.9% year-on-year (an extra 6,830t sold over the year), with lamb driving these gains.

“The data also shows that the average consumer bought 15.7kg of beef and lamb over the year, up 1.3% on the previous year.”

More on this topic

Families dump ready meals after horsemeat scandal

See more