With the rise of #cleaneating and the surprising turnaround in the street cred of veganism (it's now, like, totes on trend), it's hardly surprising that more of us are rethinking our meat intake. But new statistics suggest an even greater proportion of Britons are thinking about relinquishing their carnivorous status than you might have thought.
Almost half of the British population have either already cut their meat intake or are seriously considering doing so, according to new data from market research firm Mintel, with 28% having cut their meat intake in the past six months and 14% claiming to be interested in doing so.
The most common reason was health concerns, Mintel found, which questioned 2,000 consumers for its Meat-Free Foods Report. Nearly half (49%) of those who had cut their meat intake or were interested in doing so cited this as a reason, followed by weight management (29%), animal welfare concerns (24%) and environmental reasons (24%).
A report by the World Health Organisation back in 2015 concluded that there was a definite link between eating processed meat and cancer, claiming it was as dangerous as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco. It also said red meat was probably a factor contributing to the disease.
Nevertheless, most people have still yet to take the plunge and give up meat completely, with 91% of Britons adopting a flexitarian approach and just 9% shunning red meat and poultry altogether.
However, the number of vegetarians and vegans in the UK could rise further in the coming years as it's young people who are most likely to follow a meat-free lifestyle. A fifth of under-25s said they don't eat red meat or poultry, which rose to a quarter of women in this age group. They're an ethically conscious group, too, with animal welfare and environmental benefits being their main reasons for doing so.
“Despite the ingrained popularity of meat and poultry, a clear trend has emerged of people cutting back and limiting how much of these products they eat," said Emma Clifford, a senior food analyst at Mintel. "That ‘flexitarianism’, a whole new dietary phrase, was coined to describe this movement also highlights its indisputably mainstream status.”
Self-styled health gurus like Gwyneth Paltrow, who advocates cutting out red meat but not shunning meat completely, may also have had an impact, along with clean-eating bloggers such as Madeleine Shaw and the Hemsley sisters, who also make a point of only eating "proper" meat.
The company behind Quorn, the popular meat substitute, recently announced a 19% growth in sales in the first half of 2017, which it put down to the rise of flexitarian or partially meat-free diets. Back in 2000, just 5% of the UK population (3 million people) was vegetarian.