For a healthy balanced diet, no more than 12% of your diet should be meat, according to government figures. Currently in the UK, the average is around double that figure. And it’s not just us: population growth and the rapid emergence of a middle class in the developing world means global consumption of meat is growing fast.
Paradoxically, the world is also waking up to the fact that our love affair with meat – and low cost, industrially- produced meat in particular – is unsustainable. Health reasons aside, non-dairy protein (which is almost entirely meat) already accounts for 57% of the impact of all food and drink on our climate, according to government figures.
That’s because meat production is a phenomenally inefficient way of converting nature’s energy into fuel for humans. Animals are fed on cereals that could be used for human consumption, and those cereals are grown on vast swathes of land that could be used for growing other crops. For every 100 calories of grain fed to animals we get only 12 calories of chicken, 10 of pork and just 3 of beef. It doesn’t take a mathematical whiz to see the problem there.
At COOK we've worked with a sustainability consultancy called Forum for the Future. In May 2017, issuing its Protein Challenge 2040, they posed this simple question: “How can we meet the protein needs of nine billion people in a way that is affordable, healthy and good for the environment?”
Their answer is in the convergence of three areas: developing more sustainable animal feeds; dramatically cutting food waste globally; and encouraging people to swap meat-based meals for veggie ones. It’s the latter of these where we see the biggest opportunity for us to have a positive impact at COOK. Since 2016, we’ve been promoting Meat Free May, originally a campaign by Friends of the Earth, with 15% off our vegetarian main courses. Our hope is that more of our customers will discover just how delicious and satisfying meals without meat can be.
Originally we set ourselves the goal of increasing COOK’s sales of vegetarian meals up from 7% in 2017 to 10% of our total savoury sales by 2020. With your help, we’ve smashed that target already, and they are at 16.5%.
At the same time, we’re committed to improving the welfare of the animals we depend on for our meat and try to carefully select farmers and suppliers who, like us, are committed to reducing their negative impact on the environment.