Cost of living increases are driving meat reduction

Thursday, 7 July 2022

How has the cost of living crisis affected attitudes towards meat consumption?

In recent years we have seen the growth of “flexitarians”, or people trying to reduce their meat consumption and eat a more plant rich diet, accounting for around 1 in 5 consumers. The reasons that people have reported for reducing their meat consumption have typically been around reputational factors such as health, the environment and animal welfare.  However, inflation has been increasing sharply and consumers have been feeling the financial pinch.  This has resulted in a sharp uplift in increased cost as a reason for cutting back on meat.  That is now neck and neck with health as the top driver of meat reduction. 

Graph showing uplift in "too expensive" as a reason for meat reduction

Those thinking that beef and red meat currently have good prices and offers has now reduced to only 10% and 6% respectively.  High prices are particularly damaging for cuts such as roasting joints and steaks where higher prices are a barrier for many consumers.  Consumers may choose to opt for cheaper cuts such as mince that are easy to bulk out with cheaper vegetables or carbs, but AHDB’s consumer tracker is showing larger proportions of consumers now perceiving mince as expensive (rising from 11% to 19% over the last 12 months). 

Demand for hind quarter cuts is likely to drop further as inflationary pressures are also likely to put a brake on food service recovery.  According to an AHDB/You Gov consumer tracker, 36% are planning to eat out less than pre-pandemic.  77% of those say it is to save money.  

Year on year retail sales are now being compared to 2021 which saw a period of pandemic restrictions where in-home eating was above the average.  We would therefore expect to see a downturn in retail sales of meat and other products since last year. However, there are signs that high prices are also taking their toll, particularly on more premium proteins such as lamb which is down by 12% compared to pre-pandemic levels (Source: Kantar purchase 52 w/e 12 June 2022 vs 3 years ago). 

Retailers will need to look for ways to support consumers through this crisis.  Meat is widely regarded by consumers as an essential part of the weekly shop and provides essential nutrients such as B12 that plant-based foods alone cannot.  Consumers may need to revisit some of the more old-fashioned ways of making meat stretch further via creative use of leftovers and ensure they minimise food waste.  Promotional strategies will need to be carefully thought out as well to manage volumes passing through the supply chain at key periods such as Christmas and other key events and to maintain carcase balance. 


Image of staff member Susie Stannard

Susie Stannard

Lead Analyst (Dairy)

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