Britain’s second-largest supermarket chain plans to rearrange its aisles in an attempt to persuade shoppers to eat less meat.
Sainsbury’s is teaming up with Oxford University scientists who say that reducing meat consumption would improve people’s health and fight climate change.
Sainsbury’s could start giving vouchers to customers who buy vegetable products and putting vegetarian alternatives next to packets of meat.
The supermarket also plans to give out leaflets with meat-free recipes.
The project will begin next week across Sainsbury’s 1312 stores. The company, whose majority shareholder is the Qatar royal family’s investment fund, represents 16.9% of the UK supermarket sector.
Marco Springmann, who leads the Oxford scientists who will work with Sainsbury’s, said: “Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions.
“At the same time the food system is also responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and is therefore a major driver of climate change.”
Animals farmed for meat are responsible for huge amounts of greenhouse gases. At the same time, large tracts of land are used to grow crops to feed these cattle, pigs and chickens.
Britain is already seeing a sharp increase in the number of vegetarians and vegans amid health reports linking red meat to cancer and concerns for animal welfare. Supermarkets and food chains are now offering vegan dishes.
The Oxford researchers found adopting vegetarian diets could avoid 7.3 million deaths globally per year by 2050.
The study projected that by 2050, food-related greenhouse gas emissions could account for half of the emissions the world can afford if global warming is to be limited to less than 2C.
Dr Springmann added: “We do not expect everybody to become vegan. But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes.
“Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction.”
Sarah Molton, the head of the Our Planet, Our Health project which is helping with funds for the Sainsbury’s initiative, said: “Nutritionists, political economists and epidemiologists at Oxford will study how animal foods affect health and the environment and they will then work with Sainsbury’s to present those findings in ways people can understand.”
Britain is already seeing a sharp increase in the number of vegetarians and vegans amid health reports linking red meat to cancer and concerns for animal welfare.
Initiatives such as Meat-Free Mondays, in which people do not eat meat on the first day of the week, have been eagerly promoted by campaigners.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We are seeing an increasing number of customers choose to have meat-free days as part of a ‘flexitarian’ diet, and choose dairy alternatives. But for many this will be a short-term trend.
“Through this research with Oxford University, we are looking at how we can help customers make more informed choices and encourage long-term sustainable and healthy diets.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?
Australian and New Zealand vegetarian and vegan groups agree it’s comparatively easy to find suitable foods in our supermarkets, but you should do your research first.
For Australian readers, easyvegetarian.net offers advice on the basics of a vegetarian diet and shopping; veganaustralia.org.au provides a vegan grocery guide.
For New Zealand readers, the NZ Vegetarian Society provides a seal of approval for some vegetarian products, although there’s no official government structure for this, and there’s no similar seal for vegans. Their website: vegetarian.org.nz