Readers in the UK share why they have reduced their consumption of meat and no longer have Sunday roasts.
Last year, individuals in the UK consumed a lower amount of meat compared to previous years when records were first kept in the 1970s. The trend towards consuming vegetarian and vegan meals has been accelerated by tighter budgets.
According to government data, the quantity of meat consumed by Britons in their homes has decreased by 14% since 2012. In the past ten years, there has been a decline of 26% in carcass meat consumption, which includes beef, pork, and lamb, and a decrease of 11% in chicken and other meat products.
The rising cost of living seems to be a significant factor in the decrease in meat consumption, along with concerns about the environment and personal health. Four individuals share their reasons for altering their dietary choices.
‘Meat is expensive’
According to Moyosore Adigun-Harris, a 36-year-old mental health nurse from London, she began decreasing her meat intake around the time when electricity prices began to rise significantly. She also mentions that rising food costs have played a role in her decision to consume less meat in the past year.
Adigun-Harris used to enjoy indulging in a Sunday roast, considering it the best part of her week. She explains, “Previously, it was like a special day.” However, the 36-year-old no longer regularly purchases beef or lamb for her meals. She states, “Now, it’s simply a matter of whatever happens to be in the refrigerator.”
She still eats chicken about twice a week but has increased her intake of non-meat protein sources such as eggs and pulses. “I don’t like meat substitutes, and because I’m a nurse, sometimes I don’t have much time to cook,” she says.
According to Adigun-Harris, rising prices have led her to only purchase lamb or beef on rare occasions when it is discounted. She also notes that even with the discount, it is still costly. This has prompted her to consider factors like hormones, animal welfare, and meat quality more carefully.
“I have been aware for some time that I should discontinue consuming meat.”
Gail Grant has made an effort to decrease her consumption of meat in recent years due to factors such as health. She states, “I have been aware for some time that eating meat is not good for me.”
Grant, a retired academic residing in Bath, has frequently attempted to consume more vegetarian dishes or “compromise” and consume less meat. However, she admits, “The issue is, I crave meat and rather enjoy it.”
Nevertheless, she is worried about the potential impact of meat consumption when animals are given hormones and antibiotics, or when chickens are confined in cramped cages and may transmit salmonella to humans.
She suggests that we should be more mindful of the origin and production methods of our food. As someone who is older, it may be challenging to break a lifelong habit, but she is determined to continue and reduce her meat consumption.
‘Meat production isn’t doing the planet any good’
Mal and Sue Groombridge drastically decreased their meat consumption around three years ago due to its negative impact on the environment. Mal states, “As time passed, it became increasingly clear to us that large-scale meat production was not beneficial for the planet.”
Mal, a 65-year-old ex-RAF pilot residing in Shropshire, shares that he and his partner follow a mostly vegetarian diet, consuming fish and chicken on some occasions. However, when he craves meat, they indulge in sausages or bacon that is free of nitrites and nitrates for occasional breakfast treats.
They are particularly worried about the clearing of forests and destruction of habitats caused by the beef industry. Mal explains, “Much of it occurs in countries like Brazil, where deforestation is prevalent. Purchasing meat only supports its continuation, and we strongly oppose that.”
He states: “My perspective on meat has completely shifted. Practicing flexitarianism works well for us and could be attainable for the majority of individuals.”
I have decreased the amount of meat I eat by 95%.
Chris Mayes, a resident of Tyneside, has significantly decreased his meat intake by 95% since the beginning of the initial lockdown. He attributes this change to being confined indoors and feeling the need for a shift in his habits. While concerns such as politics and wars were prevalent, he was particularly worried about the climate crisis and its impact on the world. He believes that if this issue is not addressed, there will be nothing left to worry about. Therefore, he decided to take action and address it.
The 65-year-old former engineer in the manufacturing sector claims that he adopted a mostly vegetarian diet during the initial year of the Covid pandemic, with the exception of indulging in a bacon sandwich or cooking chicken for his granddaughter on occasion.
Formerly a frequent meat consumer, Mayes aims to lessen the impact of climate change in a minor manner. He states, “I am unable to purchase an electric car, but I can implement this alteration.” He adds, “I now consider my diet to be primarily plant-based instead of strictly vegetarian.”
The greatest challenge of reducing meat intake, according to him, is having 40 years of experience with cooking it. He had to learn how to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into his cooking.
He states, “I have learned how to cook many things, such as halloumi and tofu, that I previously didn’t know how to prepare. As a result, I feel that I have improved as a cook.”