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3 in 10 Brits have cut back on meat

Health most common reason for reducing meat consumption

18 February 2016 | Tags: British Social Attitudes, diet

Three in ten people in Britain (29%) say they have reduced the amount of meat they eat in the past 12 months, according to new findings from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey published today.

A further one in ten (9%) said they were considering reducing their meat intake or cutting meat out completely, according to questions commissioned by the Vegetarian Society. Nearly half (44%) of people either do not eat meat, have reduced the amount of meat they eat or are considering reducing the amount of meat they eat.

Who is eating less meat?

The analysis found that a significant number of people from all groups in society have made changes to their diet. But certain groups were more likely to say they had reduced the amount of meat they eat in the last year:

  • Women (34%) are most likely to have reduced their meat intake but nearly a quarter of men (23%) have also reduced the amount of meat they eat.
  • Older people were more likely to have reduced their meat consumption: 39% of 65-79 year olds have done so, compared to 19% of 18-24 year olds.

Healthy eating behind falling meat consumption

As well as asking people about their meat-eating habits, researchers also asked people who had given up meat, reduced their intake or were thinking about doing so, what had influenced their decision. People were asked to pick reasons from a list and could give as many reasons as they liked.

Over half (58%) of people in this group cited health reasons as a reason for consuming less meat.

Other reasons for reducing meat consumption included

  • saving money (mentioned  by 21% of people)
  • concerns over animal welfare ( mentioned by 20% of people)
  • concerns around food safety in relation to meat (mentioned by 19% of people)

One in 10 (11%) people in this group mentioned environmental concerns as a reason for reducing their meat intake.

Ian Simpson, Senior Researcher, NatCen Social Research said: “A significant number of people in Britain, amounting to many millions,, told us that they have reduced their meat consumption over the past 12 months.  Many people in Britain are clearly concerned about eating too much meat and the primary driver of this concern appears to be concerns about health. High-profile news stories, like research highlighting the health risks of processed meat and the horse meat scandal, could be behind this behaviour, as may Department of Health guidance around reducing meat consumption. Since we collected the data, the World Health Organisation has classified processed meat as carcinogenic, suggesting we may see even more people cutting down on meat in the future.” 

Lynne Elliot, Chief Executive of the Vegetarian Society, said: "We commissioned this research because, for some time, we have noticed people are positively engaging with the idea of eating less meat, but until now there has been little academic evidence to support this.

This report very much reflects what we see every day in our work: that there is an increasing awareness of the issues relating to our food choices, and that has resulted in a large number of people reducing the amount of meat they eat or cutting it out altogether.

Vegetarian options are an easy, healthy and tasty way to eat – and it's clearly an option being enjoyed by a large section of the population."


The report is available to download here.

For more information contact Sophie Brown: or 020 7549 9550

For more information and comment from the Vegetarian Society contact Su Taylor, Media Officer: 0161 925 2012 or 07973 108165 or

Notes to Editors

NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

Sample and approach – The 2014 survey consisted of 2,878 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. Interviewing was mainly carried out between August and October 2014, with a small number of interviews taking place in November 2014. Addresses were randomly selected and visited by one of NatCen Social Research’s interviewers. After selecting one adult at the address (again at random), the interviewer carried out an hour long interview.