More than one third of people in the UK now identify as flexitarians – or part-time vegetarians – new research has found.
Flexitarians, or flexible vegetarians, are people who eat a plant-based diet with the occasional addition of meat.
According to theflexitarian.co.uk, there are no rules to the diet and some flexitarians will have a meat-free meal once a week while others will only eat meat on rare occasions.
The latest research by Forum for the Future and Counterpoint, commissioned by Flora, predicted that the number of flexitarians is set to grow by 10% this year alone.
As the name suggests, the flexitarian diet is flexible for those who cannot commit to a full vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
It also has the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impacts of food production.
Around one third of croplands are used to grow feed for livestock, as is a third of all fish caught from the sea, while generating close to a fifth of our greenhouse gas emissions, according to the new report.
That means meat consumption is a more significant contributor to climate change than the world’s planes, cars and other forms of transport combined.
Mark Driscoll, head of food at Forum for the Future, said: “A growing number of consumers are cutting back on the types of food which have the biggest impact on our world.
“From a sustainability perspective, this is a welcome sign. Research has shown that widespread adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets could lower carbon emissions by 63% and 70% respectively.”
Jimmy Pierson, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, said: “Public perception has rapidly changed and plant-based eating is now seen as the easy and accessible lifestyle that it is.
“Vegans and vegetarians in the UK total more than two million and there are millions more who follow a flexitarian diet. These enormous numbers show there has been a cultural change in the way we think about our food. A meal doesn’t just need to satisfy our hunger but also our desire to live a sustainable lifestyle.”
Caroline Jary, director for spreads at Unilever UK, added that she believes changing attitudes to fat are a big part of the shift towards plant-based foods, “as plant and seed oils are known to contain healthy unsaturated fats versus the saturated fat that occurs in animal products”.