Consumers urged to eat 'less but better' meat

The public has been urged to take up a ‘less but better’ approach to meat eating in a new report.

Valuing The Meat We Eat encourages people to consider issues such as animal welfare, biodiversity, farmers’ profitability, taste, waste and broader health issues when it comes to eating meat.

The short study by WWF-UK and the Food Ethics Council suggests that following an ‘eat less meat’ approach for health reasons is overly simplistic, and that the focus should be on the kind of meat that is eaten.

It recommends a ‘less but better’ approach, which encourages consumers, retailers, farmers and producers to see meat as a valuable, high-quality food.

The report says the government should explore mechanisms and policies that would support transition to ‘less but better’ meat consumption, such as the Green Food Project.

Furthermore, it states the importance of research to assess marketplace barriers to ‘less but better’ and mechanisms to overcome these. In particular, the relevance and impact of this type of consumption and production on different socio-economic groups, such as those with low incomes.

Mark Driscoll, head of corporate stewardship, food and water, at WWF-UK, said: “Whilst the term ‘better’ is not easy to define, the report demonstrates that society needs to value the food we eat, especially meat, much more than we do. This may ultimately mean paying more to reflect the true social and environmental costs, whilst rewarding producers for looking after the environment.”

He added: “We know there are good reasons for reducing our meat consumption in the West – it’s better for the environment and for health, and we eat far more than our fair share.”

“However a simple ‘less meat’ message could have unintended consequences for farmers’ livelihoods, rural communities and landscapes and runs the risk of alienating consumers who want to eat meat. Some have suggested ‘less but better’ meat could be the answer, but no-one has really looked into what this means. That is what we have done in this report.”

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, said: “It’s time we started recognising that our choices about what we eat have huge impacts – not just on our own health, but also on other people, animals, the planet and future generations.

“We must learn to appreciate our food more – and critically that includes meat. Valuing the meat we eat sets out to explain what that might look like. We hope that it will trigger much-needed research into how such a transition could happen,” he added.

Friends of the Earth’s senior food and farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow stated that there is overwhelming evidence that we need to eat less meat.

She said: “Livestock farmers are struggling to produce better meat against poor retail prices and ever increasing costs. The government’s Green Food Project must take note of the report’s findings and encourage people to eat better meat less often.”