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To eat meat or not to eat meat?

News Section Icon Published 16/07/2012


From "pollotarians" to "fruitarians", the number of diet labels has risen fast in recent years. We take a look at one of the more common examples – the "flexitarian".

Better meat-free meals

It wasn’t too long ago that going out for a meat-free meal would be greeted with raised eyebrows and the offer of fish or chicken instead of red meat. The chance of finding a vegan dish without cheese or egg was virtually impossible.

Nowadays, the options are much wider: restaurants nearly always have a few meat-free options and, increasingly, vegan ones too; buying tasty vegetarian and vegan alternatives isn’t the chore it used to be; and most people understand what the terms actually mean. In fact, the number of UK vegetarian "foodie" restaurants allegedly doubled between 2007 and 2010 (The Guardian, 20101).

Shifting eating habits

And while our food options have moved on, so too have our eating habits and the way in which we talk about them. Although the number of UK vegetarians is only 3% (Food Standards Agency (FSA), 20092), the FSA also found that 5% of the respondents in the same survey said that they were "partly vegetarian". And according to research agency Mintel (20093), nearly a quarter of the UK population is reducing the amount of meat they eat, mainly for health reasons. Meanwhile, the Food Development Association states that 85% of people are eating meat-free meals once or twice a week (20094).

The rise of flexitarianism

This softening approach to meat and dairy consumption has a name too – flexitarianism; a style of eating that values quality over quantity, essentially making meat a treat. There are no hard and fast rules – it’s more of a philosophy. And for those who choose to consume meat and dairy, it’s a philosophy that makes a lot of sense (assuming that the source is higher welfare) – you get to truly savour your food choices, save cash and be kinder to your body. And of course, you’re helping to mitigate many of the impacts of factory farming and meat overconsumption.

It won’t please everyone, of course. Kathy Guillermo, director of research for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (cited in the Daily Beast, 20085) says that being a flexitarian is "…like smoking two packs of cigarettes instead of ten." Still, as the same article concludes, "...the good news is, the days of veggie lovers being confined to the ‘tofu surprise’ are over".

Have you seen any statistics that highlight these kinds of dietary changes around the world? Let us know if so.

Our sources

  1. The Guardian (2010), Vegetarians Gain More Options For Fine Dining
  2. FSA (2008/2009), National Diet and Nutrition Survey
  3. BBC (2009), The Rise of the Non-Veggie Vegetarian
  4. The Independent (2009), The Rise and Rise of the Vegetarian
  5. Daily Beast (2008), Part-Time Vegetarians

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