Per capita meat consumption in the UK fell by 14% between 2012 and 2022, according to new government figures from the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The trend takes total meat consumption to the lowest level since records began in the 1970s.
This is true across all types of meat, with a huge 26% reduction in the consumption of carcass meats (such as pork, beef, and lamb) since 2012, and an 11% fall in the consumption of other meats such as poultry.
The year to March 2022 saw a notable drop in average weekly meat intake, from 976g compared to 854g the previous year. Fish consumption also fell over this period, from 148g to 135g, as first reported by the Guardian yesterday.
The increased cost of living is believed to be a key driver of this trend, with meat prices rising significantly in the year to 2022. Lifestyle changes — likely due to concerns about animal welfare, the environment, and personal health — also play a role, along with the impact of the pandemic.
Recent data from Statista finds that approximately four percent of UK consumers identify as vegan. “The idea of eating no meat is much more widespread among younger consumers than among older generations. Meat-free food consumption will thus become even more important in the British market in years to come. The UK market for meat substitutes is already worth over ten billion euros, making it the largest in Europe,” states the research platform.
Meat consumption down, plantbased consumption up
Another study published last year found that the consumption of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy in the UK almost doubled in the period 2017-2019 when compared to a previously studied period, 2008-2011. 65% of people surveyed expressed a willingness to reduce their meat consumption, though the percentage who had actually done so over the previous year was just 21%. Last year, The Vegan Society conducted research with similar results, finding that 23% of Brits had reduced their intake of animal products since the beginning of the pandemic.
Market research also demonstrates the growing popularity of plant-based products, with a report published by Straits Research earlier this year finding that the UK vegan food market is growing at a rate of 9.58%.
“The events of the last two years have highlighted to shoppers that there are more ethical and compassionate ways we can live – and these days, supermarkets are only too happy to provide them,” said Louisianna Waring, Senior Insight and Policy Officer at The Vegan Society.