The number of consumers converting to veganism and vegetarianism is unequivocally on the rise in the U.K. A 2016 study reported that 3 in 10 respondents had reduced their meat consumption over the last 12 months, of which 58 percent stated for health reasons. Coupled with the fact that the beef industry has now been highlighted to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than the car industry, many consumers are making the transition towards a meat-free diet. What is next?
To provide context to this blog entry, I wanted to know what the priority is for consumers when buying their meat in the supermarket. So, what is in your basket? Although the audience is undoubtedly farming orientated – I asked, “When you buy meat from the supermarket, what is more important?”. I had an overwhelming response of over 600 replies.
British produce is by far the most important issue for the 610 respondents of my survey, which is unsurprising given almost all of them will be in some way connected to British agriculture!
The respondents in this instance maybe biased, but I believe that the majority of the public would choose price. If you can save a couple of pounds on some produce, or are looking for convenience food at the garage, we can all be guilty of lowering our standards. This is mirrored within an AHDB report, when 57 percent of shoppers in 2017 chose convenience as the priority. In 2017, DEFRA stated that ethical food still only accounts for 9.2 percent of household sales. Research consistently confirms that price is still the most important factor when it comes to consumers’ food considerations, with 90 percent of the UK including it in their top 5 considerations, whilst for ethical food choices, this figure is only 18 percent.
Evolved from being ‘hunter-gatherers’, why aren’t consumers eating as much meat anymore? I believe the reason lies within one of the following categories:
- Health benefits – meat is calorific
- Financial – meat is expensive
- Environment concerns – intensive farming is on the rise to cope with consumer demands
- Trends – consumers are constantly looking for the next best diet
Moving onto the big ’emissions from beef’ topic; cows ‘farting’ are breaking headlines lately. Spreading manure is effectively a free fertiliser for farmers, organic matter in soil is key for grass growth for cows and fertilising the soil for cereals to grow. So, we are taking away subsidies from farmers and rules are getting tighter by the day, what is next to go?
Have you heard of the ‘meat paradox’? I hadn’t until proof reading a friend’s dissertation. It is the psychological difficulty meat consumers face when they enjoy eating meat but dislike the thought of harming animals. Meat dissociation is the psychological process consumers employ in order avoid the meat paradox, by disconnecting the meat they eat, from the animal it originates from, and overlooking the fact that it was once a living being. Contact me if you would like to be sent the dissertation.
How do you feel about purchasing beef with a picture of a cow on (left), or would you rather not be reminded of its origin (right)?
Interestingly, marketing for organic beef plays on the better quality of life and freedom the animal has had (left), whilst a more premium range uses simple branding with no imagery at all (right).
- Whether you eat meat or not, the choice is yours. But I feel passionately that both the advantages and disadvantages should be promoted through marketing and education to make an informed decision.
- I think there are many other things we can do as an industry, country or even planet to make a difference. I believe consumers shouldn’t only be connecting with meat once it hits their plate and should be aware of the field to fork process.
- Are supermarkets making it more difficult for you to choose? Here is a statement from Sainsburys: “Customers have told us that too many logos are confusing, so we will be phasing out the use of the Red Tractor logo on packaging. We will still use the Red Tractor standards as a baseline, with many of our products reaching far higher standards.”
Finishing on a brighter note, here is a picture of a cow using the Lely Luna ‘cow brush’ which boosts animal welfare with clean and healthy skin.