Meat makes a meal, so goes the saying. But with more people than ever before ditching meat for plant-based alternatives, it seems meaty dishes are starting to go out of fashion.
An estimated 29% of evening meals contained no meat or fish in 2017, according to UK market research. And the reason for this is often linked to health. Research shows that eating red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer.
Livestock production is also bad for the environment. It leads to deforestation, pollution of water, and emits greenhouse gases that heat up our planet. This environmental impact also takes a toll on human health – for example, a warmer climate enables malaria-carrying mosquitoes to spread faster and wider.
But despite the rise of lower meat diets, scientists continue to call for more people to reduce their meat consumption, which is essential to meet environmental and climate change targets.
It might seem like encouraging people to eat less meat is a no-brainer: just provide information about the implications of eating meat and people will start eating less of it. But in our recent paper published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, we found no evidence that simply providing information about the health or environmental implications of eating meat cuts the meat on people’s plates.In addition, a review we also published in the Lancet Planetary Health aimed to understand how the settings in which people typically eat or buy food can be changed to reduce meat consumption. This research is still at its early stages, but already there are some interesting findings indicating what might work.
We suggest five ways to encourage people to eat less meat including: Reducing portion size, making veggie options more visible than meat at the counter and to develop delicious meat-free products.