The case for protein diversity

How can increasing the diversity of UK protein choices promote more sustainable diets with lower impacts on health and environment?

Publication date: November 2015

The Case for Protein Diversity looks at the impact of some of the most popular protein-rich main ingredients eaten today in the UK, as well as some less common options that have the potential for wider adoption. These range from meat, fish and eggs, through to pulses, meat alternatives and insects.

The key finding from the analysis is that greater levels of protein diversity would, in most cases, result in overall benefits to individual health, at the same time as reducing the UK’s impacts on climate change, water use and land use.

In order to understand how to drive positive change, the report also investigates the practical barriers to changing dietary behaviours, such as culinary skills and cultural attitudes to food. It found that greater diversity was a socially acceptable way to improve health and sustainability, at the same time as providing an enjoyable, interesting and affordable diet.

The report makes a number of recommendations on how to improve the diversity of protein-rich main ingredients eaten in the UK. These include:

  • Flexitarianism: consumers should be encouraged to experiment in meal choices, for example trying one new dish each week that does not use meat as the main protein source.
  • Regulation and voluntary schemes: policy makers and industry should create or promote schemes that integrate health and environmental issues by changing consumer pricing, or improving nutritional information.
  • Food campaigns: as part of the change process, credible campaigns should use increased diversity of main ingredients as a key message to improve consumer behaviour.
  • Education and skills: there is a need to promote knowledge and capability to use a greater variety of protein-rich main ingredients.
  • Diversity of production and supply: UK farmers, food manufacturers and retailers should be engaged and encouraged to produce more diverse protein choices.
  • Improving choice architecture: retailers and food service businesses should consider how they can encourage greater diversity in protein choices using a combination of replacement, reformulation, marketing, and pricing.

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