Lapsers: Social influencers to blame as 26% plan to reduce red meat consumption

More than one in four Northern Ireland adults say they plan to eat less red meat because of social media influencers and negative media reports.

Then Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) led consumer research found that whilst 90% of adults surveyed in Northern Ireland still eat red meat, 26% planned to eat less in the future.

36% of those surveyed said they already try to limit their red meat intake each week.

In response, working with James Devine, 2017 National Chef of the Year winner, scientists and nutritionists, the LMC has launched its new eight-week campaign ‘The Truth About Beef’ to dispel common myths about red meat.

Lapsers

Speaking at an online launch event on Tuesday (October 13), LMC industry development manager, Colin Smith explained such consumers had been identified as “lapsers”.

Researchers sought to delve into the psyche of ‘lapsers’ to establish what influenced them, why attitudes were changing, and importantly, how they could be encouraged to begin eating beef more regularly again.

“The campaign uses the sensory experience that comes with cooking and eating high-quality beef as a tool to engage consumers in the positive story that the beef industry has to tell in addressing global challenges such as climate change and meeting the nutritional needs of a growing population,” he said.

Key factors

Smith explained that negative media coverage – specifically those focusing on health and environment – was driving discussions among friends and family.

“Negative stories about red meat and human health eat up more and more page space than the positive stories,” he said.

“It leaves meat-eaters maybe feeling marginalised. And there is a perceived shift in the social norm when it comes to meat-eating.

“Add to this issue, perceived lack of convenience and the absence of a brand champion and you could be forgiven for thinking our ship is sinking.

“The rise of alternative proteins and the vegan lobby can make it seem like, as an industry, we are being backed into a corner with no way out.

These lapsers simply seek an authoritative figure to give them reassurance that eating beef is ok, remind them how enjoyable it is, how healthy it is and remind them that here in Northern Ireland we produce world-class beef responsibly and in harmony with the environment.

“For those who still have questions about health or the environment, we also have experts to speak authoritatively on those topics.”

One of the experts featured in the campaign, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute scientist Dr. Steven Morrison explained how Northern Irish beef farming systems help to sequester carbon.

“That’ll be in the soil we’re standing on, but also in the trees and the hedgerows,” he said.

Approximately, a football pitch piece of grassland being farmed will be capturing and storing the equivalent of the emissions of a UK car driven for one year.

LMC chief executive Ian Stevenson added: “Prior to Covid-19, we were all witnessing a huge growth in the daily calorie intake of consumers that was eaten out of the home – whether that was food-to-go or indeed in a table-served restaurant.

“While this sector is gradually returning across the many markets which our industry operates in and serves, many customers who are active in this space – particularly foodservice and catering – are equally as interested in the sustainability credentials that underpin our industry as those in the retail sector.”