Sir Paul McCartney has called on Britons to embrace 'Meat-Free Monday' to cut carbon emissions.

The concept of cutting out meat one day a week has taken off in Australia as shoppers have become conscious of the environmental impact of cattle rearing and meat production.

But UK consumers were unaware of the scheme, McCartney told The Grocer, and he called on meat lovers to cut down on meat consumption even if they could not shake the habit altogether.

"A lot of people go to the gym on a Monday. With 'Meat-Free Mondays', it's a bit like going to the gym, but with the added advantage of protecting the planet," the former Beatle added.

McCartney, a well-known evangelist for vegetarian food, has been increasingly vocal in the media about the environmental impact of meat, and said he was encouraged by the lead set by the UN. "One of the most significant conclusions of the recent report on climate change was that we should eat less meat. This is not the Vegetarian Society that said that. It's the UN."

McCartney felt the environment had given an interesting new impetus to the sale of vegetarian food, including the Linda McCartney Foods range, to which he last week pledged further support following the launch of a new ingredients line (The Grocer, 14 June).

"The environment is a new dimension for us. A lot of people want to recycle, but haven't made the leap [to vegetarian]. It's an interesting new facet for our products, alongside health, convenience, taste," he said. "We want to tap into meat reducers as well as vegetarians. We feel that's a category we can fit into," he added, with the cause further helped by more emphasis on quality rather than ethics

"Meat eaters are starting to go to veg restaurants as a destination for good food," with Saf, the new raw food restaurant in London, "demonstrating the changing mood".meat free or meatout?

'Meat Free Mondays' is an Australian marketing campaign that encourages meat-eaters to eat vegetarian one day a week.

Set up by health food company Sanitarium in 2005, the initiative developed after it discovered Australians were cutting down on meat and promotes Sanitarium's alternative vegetarian dishes.

Meatout Mondays is different. Part of grassroots diet education campaign Meatout, it encourages meat-eaters to become vegetarian for six months with an email sent out every Monday containing a vegetarian recipe as well as an inspirational message.

Meatout was launched in 1985 by non-profit organisation FARM.

Starter packs for Meatout Mondays are available in the United States and Canada yet the campaign has seen interest worldwide.