A new study led by Oxford University has found daily meat consumption in the UK has fallen by almost a fifth over the last decade - with red meat consumption falling by 13.7g, while processed meat consumption dropping by 7.0g.
The study analysed data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey to assess changes in the consumption of red, white, and processed meat within the UK from 2008-09 to 2018-19. It looked at four-day food diaries completed by around 1,000 people in each survey year.
Researchers found that between 2008 and 2019, the average daily meat consumption per capita dropped from 103.7g to 86.3g – a decrease of 17.4g a day, or just under 17%. Red meat consumption fell by 13.7g, while processed meat consumption dropped by 7.0g.
The study also revealed Britons were eating 3.2g more white meat per day than a decade ago.
Each day, people in the UK now eat 5.7g less beef, 3.9g less lamb and 4.2g less sausage. But at the same time, people are eating more white meat, mostly chicken.
The proportion of vegetarians and vegans in the UK is also increasing steadily, with 5% of respondents foregoing meat or all animal products in 2018-19, up from 2% in 2008-09.
Despite the decrease, the authors of the study have warned that it was far from enough to reach the meat consumption targets outlined in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy report.
The report warns that to rein in the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts from livestock farming and reduce diet-related diseases, people in the UK must eat 30% less meat by the end of the decade.
Meat consumption needs to be cut by 30% by 2030 to reduce methane emissions from cattle and sheep that help drive global warming and to free up land for absorbing carbon and boosting nature.
Oxford University’s Cristina Stewart told the BBC: “We now know we need a more substantial reduction. You don’t have to be vegetarian. Although, in general, meat-free dishes will have a lower impact.
“But if you’re someone that eats meat every day, reducing your meat consumption by 30% just looks like having two meat-free days per week.”
Along with the environmental impact, there could also be myriad health benefits in reduced meat consumption.
While a meat-heavy diet has already been linked with bowel cancer, a review published last month determined that eating too much red and processed meat also increases the risk of heart disease.
The study is published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.