Summer has finally arrived in the UK, which means only one thing: the return of the barbecue. A June afternoon isn’t complete without a soundtrack of sizzling sausages and the smell of burgers grilling wafting through the air.
But before throwing another pack of sausages on the barbie, how many of us stop and think about how much meat we eat, and why? That’s the aim of a new project funded by science charity Wellcome, which is designed to get people debating their diets.
Visitors to the Meat Your Persona pop-up exhibition, which is touring shopping centres this month, will be challenged to complete an interactive quiz to discover which one of six meat personas they are, before learning how they can
adjust their diets to be greener and healthier.
i’s guide to helping the planet in your everyday life
Meat and dairy production is a major driver of climate change. Meat Your Persona draws on research by scientists at the University of Oxford, who warn global climate targets are unreachable without people cutting back on consumption of meat and dairy products.
“Meat tends to require a lot of water, and also it produces a lot of greenhouse gases,” explains Professor Charles Godfray, a member of the Oxford research team supporting the project. There could also be worrying health effects: “There is evidence that if you eat a very large amount of red meat there are risks for your health. The risks are not enormous, but they are definitely there,” Professor Godfray warns.
Professor Godfray and his colleagues hope the project will give them a better sense of how much the public understands the connection between meat and climate change, and how easy it will be to shift the masses towards greener eating habits. “The whole point of the quiz is to get a conversation going,” he says.
“One of the things we are interested in is just how people react to and assimilate new information for example around the consequences of eating meat, and how it incentivises them to change their diets or not to change their diets.”
What’s your meat persona?
How often do you eat meat?
a) It isn’t a meal without meat
b) Most days
c) A couple of times a week
d) Now and then
e) Only when I’m out
Did you know… As a global average per capita, meat consumption has increased by 20kg since 1961 – that’s equal to about 89 extra steaks a year each.
If you could only eat one of these for the rest of your life, which would it be?
a) Beef me up
b) Chicken lickin’
c) All things pork
d) Lamb, I love ewe
e) Seafood… and I eat it
f) Cheese please
Did you know… Different types of meat – red, white and processed – affect our health in different ways.
How much do you think about what you eat?
a) I’ve got food on the brain
b) Food is my fuel
c) I’m not fussy
d) I’m easily tempted
e) I’ll try anything once
f) I’ll have what she’s having
Did you know… What you choose to eat can depend a lot on your surroundings: who you eat with, where you shop and even how your food’s labelled.
What is most likely to tickle your taste buds in the future?
a) Plant-based eating
b) Lab-grown meats
c) Insect protein
d) Beef-free menus
e) Fake it till you make it (meat substitutes)
d) East less meat but better quality
Did you know… Around a third of adults in the UK have reduced the amount of meat in their diet in the past five years.
What is most important to you?
a) Air quality
b) Water purity
e) Climate change
f) Your local surroundings
Did you know… More than a third of all the calories from the world’s harvested crops are used to feed animals instead of humans.
But while the science around the health and climate change effect of meat consumption is clear, the question of how to broach the topic of dietary change is less clear cut. Tackle the topic in the wrong way, and people become defensive or angry.
The quiz has been designed to try to engage people without enraging them, says Amanda Gore, director of the Liminal Space, the consultancy that designed the quiz.
The aim was to encourage people to “learn more about their behaviour in a light-hearted way, and through this become aware of the impacts of meat eating,” she says.
“We wanted to give everyone the ability to make informed choices – the experience is purposefully non-judgemental and supportive, offering information and suggestions for people whether they eat meat with every meal or not.”
Ready for a grilling? Take the quiz and see if the pack of sausages you fancy chucking on the barbecue turn out to be plant-based.
Your meat persona explained
The BLT: breakfast, lunch and tea – it’s not a meal without meat
Like the majority of Britons, you’re a meat-eater. But did you know that our appetite for red meat like beef is causing huge problems for the environment – and our health? Research conducted by the University of Oxford’s Leap research project, which looks into the effect of meat and dairy on human health and the environment, shows that swapping just 100 calories a day of red or processed meat – that’s less than half a beef burger – for a healthier option such as fish, cheese or eggs could cut your chance of heart disease by 20 per cent and help the planet in the process.
The chicken supreme: your body is a temple – to protein
Everyone needs protein – it’s one of the key building blocks that allows our bodies to stay healthy, and chicken can be a good source. But we’re eating way too much of it. Try to eat less protein, especially meat, and fill up on fruit and veg or staple foods like bread or pasta instead.
We actually eat 50-80 per cent more protein than we need to and if we all ate a more plant-based diet, we’d not only be healthier, but we could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70 per cent by 2050.
The happy eater: you are what you eat – and you eat only the best
Organic, local, grass-fed, bio-dynamic, rare breed? Like many meat-eaters you know your onions – and prefer them in a slow-cooked bolognese. Buying good quality grass-fed beef from local sources is certainly better than mass-produced meat raised on feed from abroad, but it is still contributing to climate change.
Researchers from the Leap team are currently studying how meat production affects our planet. For instance, did you know that producing a single steak takes the same amount of water as having a five-minute shower every day for two whole months? Could you eat less as well as better meat?
The part-time carnivore: you love meat – as an occasional treat
Almost a quarter of adults in the UK feel the same way – they regularly give meat a miss. And the number is growing: over the past five years almost a third of us have reduced the amount of meat we eat. We don’t have to go totally vegetarian to make a difference. You could still have a piece of meat, a couple of bits of chicken and a splash of milk in your tea or coffee each week and keep global warming under control.
The adventurous eater: you will try anything once Biltong, brains, sweetbreads and offal.
Your appetite knows no limits. But livestock farming around the world is having a huge impact on endangered birds and animals. The UK food supply alone is directly linked to the extinction of an estimated 33 species at home and abroad.
The salad spinner: you are a meat-free magician
Who needs meat? You can conjure all the flavour you need from grains, vegetables and fish and let your lentils do the talking. Leap researchers have found that vegetarians and those who eat fish or little meat are far less likely to develop colorectal cancer or heart disease compared with regular meat eaters.