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Three in 10 Brits have cut the amount of meat they eat over the past 12 months – with health concerns a key driver, according to a survey.

Although just 1% of consumers have quit eating meat altogether over the past year, 29% have cut back, the latest British Social Attitudes survey from NatCen Social Research revealed.

A further one in 10 respondents (9%) said they were planning to reduce their meat consumption or cut it out altogether, it found.

Women (34%) were the most likely to have reduced meat intake over the past year, but nearly a quarter of men (23%) had also cut back. Older people were also more likely to reduce meat consumption – with 39% of 65 to 79-year-olds having done so, compared with 19% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

More than half (58%) of those that had cut back on meat did so for health reasons, with concerns over saving money (21%), animal welfare (20%), food safety (19%) and the environment (11%) the other top drivers.

“Many people in Britain are clearly concerned about eating too much meat and the primary driver of this appears to be concerns about health,” said Ian Simpson, Senior Researcher, NatCen Social Research.

The study, commissioned by the Vegetarian Society, appears to confirm fears that health scares – such as the recent WHO decision to classify processed meat as a carcinogen – are affecting meat consumption.

“For some time, we have noticed people are positively engaging with the idea of eating less meat, but until now there has been little academic evidence to support this,” said Lynne Elliot, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society. 

“This report very much reflects what we see every day in our work: that there is an increasing awareness of the issues relating to our food choices, and that has resulted in a large number of people reducing the amount of meat they eat or cutting it out altogether.”

The Grocer reported last year retail meat volumes had fallen 1.1%, with poultry volumes down 2.8% [Nielsen 52 w/e 10 October 2015].

However, latest data from Kantar Worldpanel suggests volumes are bouncing back, up 1.5% across fresh meat and poultry [12 w/e 31 January 2016]. This was driven by increased volumes of lamb (2%) and chicken (6%). Beef and pork volumes fell 3.2% and 5% , while processed meat fell 0.9%.