This blog post includes data from research into seven UK-based reduction and vegan campaigns, drawing on the largest sample of meat reducers, pescatarians, vegetarians, and vegans in any research project to date (n=1,587). Research was conducted for my PhD in Social Policy at the University of Kent, using a mixed-methods, longitudinal approach.

In short: it depends on the type of meat reducer.

The good news is that within my research most meat reducers (63%) did plan to also reduce their fish and/or white meat consumption. The bad news is that 35% planned to increase their fish consumption.

Red meat reducers — those who did not plan to eat less fish and/or white meat, were more likely to increase or not change their white meat, fish, total meat and total meat and fish consumption than were other meat reducers.

One important reason this may be is that red meat reducers and many other types of meat reducers may not actually change their habits. They may still believe that a meal needs meat or a meat-type element in order to be adaquate, tasty, and/or healthy. This may also explain why pescatarians ate more fish than any other group.

Successful reduction is likely to require the development of new habits. Meat reducers who do not develop new unconscious ways of eating meat-free or vegan meals may simply replace red meat with white meat or fish or feel that they always need some kind of “substitute.” The very idea of a substitute suggests something is lacking and a (likely inferior) alternative is required. The “protein.”

Encouraging new ways of eating, the development of new norms, and the recognition of omnivorous conceptions of a meal may help alleviate potential increases in chicken and fish.

Reduction research and campaigns often fail to address this potential issue and in particular focus on red meat consumption as the enemy, without being clear about what we should be eating instead.

We need to be better about discussing chicken and fish — their negative consequences for the environment, animals, and human health. The change we want isn’t simply one of replacement but of an entirely new way of eating.

Over the upcoming weeks I’ll be sharing more of my findings and what this means for campaigners, researchers, and policy makers. So make sure to click “follow” and stay tuned!

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