New research has shown UK consumers’ eating habits have become more influenced by ethics and sustainability over the past year, and 48% of people have been paying greater attention to the provenance of their food through the likes of kitemarks since the start of the pandemic.

This is according to research from Proagrica, a global provider of technology solutions for the agriculture and animal health industries.

The survey of more than 1,000 UK adults also showed that 71% are reducing food miles by purchasing local produce, while 57% are shifting to 'less-polluting food types', reducing their meat and dairy consumption.

Almost half (46%) want this meat or fish to be ethically-farmed, opting for the likes of free-range poultry and MSC-certified fish.

Furthermore, over a third of consumers (37%) suggest they are now eating more organic food, with the same number choosing more alternative (alt) protein in their diet, such as soya bean, plant-based meat and pea protein.

Agricultural priorities

The research also revealed what UK consumers think the agricultural sector needs to prioritise in order to meet its environmental responsibilities.

48% of those surveyed think decreasing the use of pesticides is the number one consideration, while 20% see the main focus as reducing water use through smart irrigation, rainwater recycling and recovery and other methods.

Graeme McCracken, managing director at Proagrica, said:

"Many were making considered food choices to minimise their carbon footprints before the pandemic.

"However, our research shows Covid-19 has pushed more people to think about the types of food they are eating and how this is produced.

This is informed by two underlying concerns - environmental impact and health.

"With more shoppers actively looking for certification kitemarks when shopping, the pressure is growing across the food supply chain to prove ethical standards are being upheld.

"The industry must work collaboratively to build a food system that is entirely traceable.

This is a chance for the food sector to prove it puts sustainability at the heart of all it does.

"While it would not make sense to do anything otherwise, we need to be able to demonstrate this to consumers," he concluded.