This project, led by Toritseju Begho at SRUC, was one of 16 scoping studies to receive funding from the AFN Network+. Here Toritseju explains how the project will test the willingness of consumers to replace meat with alternative proteins in their diet.
We know that we need to make the food system in the UK better for the environment. Our project will focus on meat, and the potential willingness of consumers to integrate alternative proteins into their diet.
Currently the way we produce meat has a negative impact on the planet. Even if we improve production methods, there will still be a significant environmental impact. Recent research indicates that to effectively meet climate goals, we need to reduce meat consumption. Different kinds of proteins which have less impact on the environment such as legumes, edible mushrooms, insects, ‘meat’ made in labs or meat analogues (e.g., manufactured using protein extracted from plants) could be an alternative. The big question is are people in the UK ready to introduce these alternative proteins into their diets?
To find out, we will carry out a survey of UK meat consumers. The survey will try to understand what people think about meat alternatives and why they might or might not want to eat them. This survey will also try to understand what makes people open to trying new kinds of proteins. It will explore people’s opinions on how/whether alternative proteins can partly substitute, or completely replace meat in existing diets.
The study acknowledges that dietary changes can be gradual and need to align with personal tastes and cultures. The aim is to gather information that can help influence behaviour change and encourage people to eat in ways that are better for the environment. This is important for the UK's goal to reduce its environmental impact. Understanding people’s perspectives about these alternative protein sources is essential for this change to happen.
A workshop will also bring together diverse stakeholders including consumers, food industry representatives and researchers. The discussions will revolve around what participants might be willing to substitute in their diet in place of traditional meat protein. It will allow stakeholders to learn from each other, share experiences, and work together towards a common goal of a more sustainable agri-food system.
The insights from these discussions will help to develop the practical strategies needed to encourage a shift towards sustainable diets. This could include identifying key messages that resonate with consumers, understanding the role of pricing and availability, or recognizing cultural factors that influence food choices. Information gathered from the survey and workshop will be valuable for policymakers and the food industry. It will contribute to the ongoing effort to reduce emissions from the food and agriculture sector. It can guide the development of policies and products that support sustainable eating habits, ensuring they are based on actual consumer needs and preferences.
The team consists of researchers from Scotland’s Rural College and University of Aberdeen working collaboratively with a charity - Nourish Scotland. This partnership is particularly beneficial, as Nourish Scotland is renowned for using creative methodologies in new contexts bringing together and giving voice to people whose perspectives have previously not been heard. The team in Nourish Scotland works closely with a wide range of people including large and small food producers and processors, policy makers and academics, food industry, unions and NGOs as well as people who experience food insecurity. Their expertise in fostering inclusive dialogue and understanding diverse perspectives will enhance the project’s effectiveness and reach.
Other project members include: Pete Ritchie, Nourish Scotland; Wisdom Dogbe, University of Aberdeen
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UK Research has funded this Network+ with the support of these 4 councils:
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)