Chewing it over

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Aveek Bhattacharya; Christopher Bryant; Abby Couture

September 5, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Social Market Foundation looks at public attitudes to alternative proteins and meat reduction.

Whereas vegetarianism and veganism were once relatively fringe, interest in reducing meat consumption – whether on animal welfare, health or environmental grounds – is on the rise. This SMF report, the second of three in a series on the impact of alternative proteins on animals, investigates public attitudes towards meat reduction and the role of alternative proteins in these societal shifts. Although policymakers are reluctant to engage with the idea of meat reduction for fear of sparking a political backlash, the public are much more comfortable with it. 57% of the country believe that most people should eat less meat, while 58% of people have taken steps to eliminate or reduce their own meat consumption. Interest in meat reduction is motivated by health, environmental and animal welfare concerns. The latter is widespread, and the public is generally very supportive of tougher animal welfare standards. There is less consensus on whether the government should get involved in meat reduction, and the public tend to support softer interventions like animal welfare labelling or subsidies over harder ones such as a meat tax. Although some remain wary of the processed nature of cultivated meat and have concerns about affordability, the public are open to alternative proteins. While only 26% are satisfied with the existing products on the market, 52% would be open to eating them in future, and they are particularly appealing to ‘swing’ consumers who are open to persuasion on meat reduction. The third and final report in the series will look at how far alternative proteins can promote higher animal welfare and how likely they are to succeed.