14% of UK public eating more meat during lockdown… but price remains king

Consumers are buying and eating more meat and dairy as they cook more home meals during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new industry analysis.

But price remains king when it comes to their choice to pick local produce over imports with just over one in five saying they would buy local even if it was more expensive.

The number of people eating more meat has doubled from 7% to 14% since February, while dairy has seen those increasing consumption leap from 5% to 12% over the same period, according to research commissioned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and carried out by YouGov.

Recent figures from AHDB showed an increase in households buying red meat, from 67% in April 2019 to 71% in April 2020.

Figures also show that a massive 71% of consumers trust farmers and agree they are doing a good job ensuring food production continues during the pandemic.

However, the industry’s push for people to buy British is currently impacting less than a quarter of shoppers, with only 22% saying they would purchase home-grown options if they were more expensive than alternatives.

The research showed 48% of shoppers are more price-conscious or have allocated their shopping budgets differently.

Christine Watts, chief officer for communications and market development at AHDB, said: “The work shows that Britishness is often a secondary factor for consumers.

“Therefore, industry messages need to go further than the country of origin, towards key points of difference like traceability, sustainability and quality.

Only half of consumers said they would proactively seek out British products post-pandemic. However, we have a great story to tell about what we produce in this country and the products for consumers to enjoy.

“What is heartening is that many people are returning to the familiar staples, like meat and dairy, that they know and love.

“There is more home cooking and baking going on. There is more cooking from scratch, so people are buying the ingredients they need rather than ready-cooked dishes.

“And, of course, the options for out-of-home have been severely limited, with millions more meals now being eaten at home every week. This means recipe inspiration is key.

“Our ‘Make It’ campaign, working with colleagues in Scotland and Wales, is building inspiration around steaks and other high-value beef cuts. Meanwhile, ‘Milk Your Moments‘ is really catching people’s imagination and helping them connect with each other in these unprecedented times.

“All the research points to the fact that people trust and appreciate farmers, perhaps more now than before because of their rugged determination to get food to the supermarket shelves during the current coronavirus crisis.”

Author of the AHDB report, Susie Stannard, consumer insight manager, said: “There is much positivity in how consumers feel about farming, and a growing acknowledgement of the important role that meat and dairy play in the British diet.

However, in the face of an impending recession, factors such as provenance, environment and welfare temporarily take a back seat to price and availability.

“Much valuable work has already been done but it is important that the industry continues to make demonstrable progress in areas such as welfare and the environment, alongside the very clear immediate focus on how best to continue to deliver safe, affordable and sustainable food.”