What Factors Influence Meat Consumption In The U.K.?
Concern is rising over the negative impacts of meat consumption, including concerns about climate change, disease, and animal welfare. Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Cancer Research Fund, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and numerous university researchers recommend a reduction in meat consumption for these reasons, among others.
Nevertheless, a number of factors prevent consumers from reducing meat consumption. Beliefs about nutrition, tradition, naturalism, and other factors work to hamper changes in consumer behavior. Other factors are more variable, and involve the time of day, day of the week, location, and social context of eating. The authors in this study examined these variable factors to model meat consumption in adults in the United Kingdom.
Data were taken from the United Kingdom’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey from 2008 to 2014. The survey records data about food consumption, nutrient intake, and the nutritional status of people living in the United Kingdom. Adults in the survey are asked to record everything they eat and drink in a food diary over the course of four days. For each item eaten or drunk, the food diary also records the time of consumption, place of consumption, and in what company consumption occurred. These data were obtained for 4,156 individuals.
The authors developed models to gauge the probability of meat consumption (excluding seafood) in each eating episode (meal or snack) using a variety of predictors. Overall, only 21% of eating episodes contained meat consumption. At a high level, men ate more meat than women, and the gap increased as the day went on. The oldest age group (>70) had the lowest meat consumption throughout the day except at lunchtime.
The probability of consuming meat peaked at lunchtime and dinnertime, with a slightly higher probability of consuming meat at dinnertime than at lunchtime. However, the quantity of meat eaten after mid-afternoon was much higher (50%) than the quantity eaten before mid-afternoon. Eating with others increases the probability of meat consumption, especially eating with family members. On weekends, meat was more likely to be eaten in the morning and at lunchtime, with a peak in meat consumption on Sundays overall. In general, eating at a restaurant or cafe increased meat consumption.
Based on the results, the authors provide recommendations for policymakers and activists. While the Meatless Monday campaign targets the weekday with the greatest meat consumption, targeting Sunday could be a more effective strategy; however, social effects of Sunday eating would need to be accounted for. Restaurants offering caloric or environmental impact disclosures could affect meat consumption when eating out, and workplaces could limit the availability of meat products. Individual-level interventions should be paired with broader, collective campaigns to increase sustainability and reduce meat consumption.