Chewing It Over: Public Attitudes to Alternative Proteins & Meat Reduction

Exploring the politics of meat reduction

October 2023

Alternative proteins could dramatically reshape our food systems, and significantly reduce the animal suffering involved in intensive farming. This report is the second of three investigating the likelihood and potential of such change. The first investigated the state of farmed animal welfare, and concluded reducing the consumption of intensively farmed chicken should be the immediate primary focus. The third will look at how far alternative proteins can promote higher animal welfare, and how likely they are to succeed.

This report seeks to understand public attitudes to animal welfare, meat reduction policies and alternative proteins, to better understand the political constraints and opportunities for change, by means of:  a thorough literature review,  a nationally representative survey of 1,500 people, and six focus groups containing people with differing attitudes to meat. – Aveek Bhattacharya, Chris Bryant & Abby Couture


Alternative proteins have the potential to profoundly transform our food systems and substantially alleviate the suffering of animals in intensive farming.

This report delves into the transformative potential of alternative proteins and their impact on animal welfare. While policymakers may hesitate to address meat reduction due to political concerns, the public exhibits greater acceptance. 


1 A majority of 57% believe that reducing meat consumption is advisable

With 58% having already taken steps to decrease their meat intake. Motivations for meat reduction span health, environmental, and animal welfare concerns, with 61% expressing discomfort about current farm animal treatment

2  Despite limited awareness of UK animal welfare issues, there is strong support for stricter standards, including a ban on factory farming (59%) and a willingness to pay more for higher-welfare meat (66%).

3  Public opinion varies on government involvement in meat reduction, with 43% endorsing government encouragement, but 34% disagreeing

The majority prefers softer interventions, such as animal welfare labels (74% support) and subsidies for plant-based meat alternatives (58% support), but opposes a meat tax (69% against). 

4 The report highlights that while only 26% are satisfied with current alternative protein products, 52% are open to trying them in the future.

Public attitudes towards animal welfare and meat reduction classify them into four groups: ‘Meat Lovers,’ ‘Animal Lovers,’ ‘Animal Sympathisers,’ and those with no strong views. 

The population is divided into strong pro-animal and pro-meat groups, with the majority being animal-sympathisers or neutral on the issue. Approximately 69% fall in the middle, and while the median person has no strong views, 44% are sympathetic to animal welfare, suggesting that 81% of the population can be persuaded to some degree.

Additionally, the report highlights that while only 26% are satisfied with current alternative protein products, 52% are open to trying them in the future. Plant-based alternatives are generally viewed as convenient and tasty, but affordability remains a concern (28%)

5  Furthermore, 39% express willingness to try cultivated meat, with ‘Animal Sympathisers’ being the most receptive group

This mirrors previous research which finds that cultivated meat appeals primarily to meat-eaters, not vegetarians

The report underscores the public’s willingness to embrace alternative proteins and advocates for further exploration of their potential to enhance animal welfare and drive change in the food industry.

Research conducted with the Social Market Foundation