Meating a path to poor food choices

New research from Red Tractor and YouGov has revealed that families with young children (aged 11 years and under) are most affected by the cost of food and are cutting back on meat as a result.

Parents of young children are having to make the biggest changes when shopping for food, with 27% saying they are buying less meat and 18% buying less fruit and vegetables. 39% of parents have replaced meat with carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, in an attempt to keep their children full on a tighter budget.

This comes at a time when research by Mintel revealed the percentage of consumers who believe eating less meat is a “good way to save money” rose from 27% in 2021 to 43% in 2022. Meanwhile, the view that reducing meat consumption is “better for the environment” fell from 47% in 2021 to 41% in 2022.

Overall, one in ten (10%) British consumers are non-meat eaters, including 14% of 16-24s and just 5% of over-65s. Nearly half (47%) of adults today either don’t eat meat/poultry or have limited/reduced the amount they eat. A further 14% have yet to reduce their meat consumption but would be interested in doing so.

On top of this, 33% of families with young children are buying what they consider to be lower quality food as they look for cheaper options, compared to just 20% of households without children. This comes despite concerns that less-expensive products may have been produced to a lower quality.

Whether you’re pro or anti-meat, the biggest concern is food safety and the rise of food crime.

The number of food incidents, recalls and cases of four pathogens went up over a 12-month period, according to the latest published data. Susan Jebb, FSA chair, outlined the scale of the challenges the association is facing at a Westminster Nutrition Forum last week, saying the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit means local authorities are still struggling and face constraints while import controls cannot guarantee further incidents occurring.

This despite signs of recovery during the reporting period. When talking about  sampling and food crime, we heard that more than 11,000 samples were tested with 245 non-compliances found. Some products did not meet required standards in terms of the quality and accuracy of consumer information.

Hopefully, the challenges we face currently will be addressed as the year progresses. However, we cannot ignore that Red Tractor’s research “lays bare the choices parents feel they have to make thanks to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on food prices”, as Jim Moseley, chief executive, Red Tractor concluded.

There shouldn’t be a choice between quality, safety and value when it comes to food.

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