Meat sales plunge as veganism continues to rise in UK

Some 3.6m fewer animals were eaten in first half of 2019

A vegan burger
(Image credit: (Drew Angerer/Getty Images))

Sales of red meat have plunged as more British people choose a vegan or vegetarian diet, according to new data.

According to a study by the Veganuary charity, more than 800,000 people cut back on eating animal products for at least a month last year, meaning 3.6 million fewer animals were eaten in the first six months of 2019.

Separate research by Nielsen found that sales of red meat fell more by value than any other category in supermarkets, down by £185m. Beef sales were down by 4% and pork plunged by 6.4%. Meanwhile, sales of meat-free alternatives rose by 18% to £405 million, the highest growth rate of any category.

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Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen, told The Grocer: “2019 has seen a rise in meat-free and free-from categories as consumers become more health and environmentally conscious and veganism hits the mainstream.”

The vegan market in Britain topped £1 billion for the first time last year and has doubled in the past 20 years. The number of vegans in Britain more than doubled to 600,000 between 2016 and last year, according to surveys commissioned by the Vegan Society.

Why are people moving away from meat?

Research by Kantar found that health was the most popular reason for giving up animal products, cited by 55% of respondents. Concern for animal welfare was mentioned by 49% and protecting the environment by 30%.

Responding to the news, Stuart Roberts, vice-chairman of the National Farmers Union, said: “Everyone has a right to choose whatever diet they desire. What frustrates me in this debate is that people make dietary choices thinking that just because you choose a plant product over a meat product it is more sustainable and healthy when actually with all categories, meat or plant, there are products that are more sustainable or less sustainable.”

This month, some 300,000 consumers have already pledged to go meat-free for the whole of January as part of the Veganuary campaign.

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