by Rachel Demuth
27 December 2017
As people are increasingly choosing to cut down on meat and boost their vegetable intake (especially in January), Rachel Demuth looks at how the trend is growing – and starting to shape our food landscape...
Whether for environmental, health, or ethical reasons (or, indeed, all three!), more people than ever before have started to move away from meat, dairy and other animal products in recent years.
From production methods, water use and food miles, to excessive packing, over-consumption and often appalling levels of food waste, the impact that food (in particular the meat and dairy industry) has on the environment is complex and increasingly severe. The production of meat and dairy has a much bigger effect on climate change than that of most grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables; annual carbon dioxide emissions associated with a vegan diet have been estimated to be less than half of those of a meat eater.
And with regards to health, aside from helping you get your daily recommended portions of fruit and veg, the bene ts of a plant-based diet are being demonstrated in an increasing number of studies; everything from lower blood pressure and cholesterol to lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer have been attributed to a plant-based diet.
With campaigns and movements such as Veganuary, World Vegan Month and Meat Free Monday, awareness surrounding our dietary choices is growing. It’s even become a hot topic on TV, with Netflix playing a particularly large role; first it showed Vegucated , Cowspiracy and Forks over Knives , and then came the loveable Okja , pulling at heartstrings across the nation. Even comedian Simon Amstell has come on board, writing BBC film Carnage : a utopian mockumentary where eating meat is illegal and the future generations are horrified by our current eating habits.
Social media, the internet, and the press have been influential too, of course. With a multitude of mouth-watering Instagram accounts dedicated to showing off how varied and delicious a plant-based diet can be, specialist magazines, and easily accessible nutritional information online, old myths such as the one that you can’t get enough protein from plants are now outdated ways of thinking.
Although not everyone is committing to a vegan diet, eating habits and attitudes are changing, and the number of ‘flexitarians’ (whether you love or hate that label!) are on the rise. The Telegraph labelled flexitarianism as one of the biggest food trends of 2017, with one in three people actively reducing their meat intake. Recent research by The Vegan Society, meanwhile, showed that half of people surveyed said they know someone who is vegan, and a fifth said they would consider becoming a vegan themselves.
So, with more vegans (and more people adopting some vegan habits) comes an increased demand for plant-based food and dishes. Restaurants are having to take the popularity of plant-based diets on board and become more inventive with their menus – long gone is the day of the single, lonely, uninspiring vegetarian dish. High street chain Wagamama recently launched an entirely vegan menu with an impressive 29 options but, on a smaller scale, the plant-based choice on offer across the wonderful independent eateries in Bristol and Bath is truly fantastic.
Creative chefs are using vegetables in new and exciting ways, rebranding them in a way that appeals not only to vegetarians and vegans, but to anyone who is looking for a new and enjoyable eating experience, all the while reducing the impact on the world around us. And supermarkets are responding to the increase in demand too – whether that’s stocking ingredients that were once only found in health food shops, such as tempeh and nutritional yeast, or offering a greater selection of vegan-friendly on-the-go options. Veganscan now enjoy everything from Oatly’s oat-based crème fraîche to indulgent cashew ice cream.
As an ever-increasing number of people are adopting a plant-based diet, we have seen a huge rise in demand for vegan classes at Demuths Cookery School. Here we aim to both share and inspire vegetarian and vegan ways of working with food; our intention is to impress students with the flavour and variety of plant-based dishes. We hope to provide inspiration and ideas that are easily achievable, and give students the confidence to cook at home for friends and family.
People’s expectations of food are constantly changing and growing. I hope that the future of food is one that views meat and dairy as a treat, and not the integral ingredient that all meals have to be based around.