Launching two major pieces of work about meat eating at the same time of year might not sound like ideal timing. But COVID-19 meant that LEAP, Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People project, was faced with doing just that - launching two projects not only in the same week but on the same day in May. But, actually, it works, according to Lucy Yates, LEAP’s Public Engagement Coordinator.
‘What an opportunity to reach different audiences at the same time,’ she said. ‘By inviting them to Oxford’s Natural History Museum to see Meat the Future and going out to meet a broad range of people around the country with our touring installation, Meat Your Persona.’
LEAP research aims to contribute to an evidence-based discussion on the future of meat production and consumption: how frequently it should be eaten and its environmental and health impact. Some key research findings include:
- Even if we cut all fossil fuel emissions immediately, we still would not reach climate change targets without also cutting food emissions.
- Eating high quantities of processed and unprocessed meat is associated with higher risks of colorectal cancer and ischemic heart disease among other diseases.
Meat the Future offers serious food for thought about how the consumption of meat affects our health and the planet. Showcased in striking, engaging displays, visitors to the museum can find out more about LEAP’s research and learn about the impact of meat eating. Displays include stacks of meat, which compare consumption in different countries. Visitors can browse a supermarket fridge, to find out more about ecolabels for foods, and be transported to the South American rainforest – where biodiversity is under acute attack from agriculture. They can also discover the carbon footprint of their own shopping habits in a specially developed digital interactive.
Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Co-Director of LEAP, Oxford Professor of Population Biology, and Director of the Martin School said, ‘With a population likely to peak above nine billion this century, Meat the Future asks how we square our growing demand for meat with the needs of the planet.’
Meat Your Persona, meanwhile, is a touring installation in a bright yellow horsebox, by design consultancy The Liminal Space. Subtitled ‘What you eat and how it can change the world’, it is also aimed at highlighting the impact of meat eating on the environment and the individual. It offers a fun quiz to find your ‘meat persona’ – such as the BLT or the Happy Eater – and there are a host of other interactive activities designed to help you find out more from new recipes to learning more about Leap’s research.
The travelling exhibition is designed to speak to diverse audiences about their meat consumption and be fun along the way.
So far, the yellow horse box has visited shopping centres in Cardiff, Leeds and Newcastle. Blackpool and Glasgow are yet to come - along with a return trip to Leeds.
If you cannot see it in person, can take the quiz and find your meat persona at www.meatyourpersona.com.
Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health, Co-Director of LEAP, commented, ‘Most people in the UK are unaware of the environmental impact of meat or the health harms caused by eating too much meat. Meat Your Persona will provide us with invaluable insight into the UK's current thinking around meat consumption and, hopefully, encourage individuals to think more deeply about the impact their food choices have on our environment. This is often a difficult conversation to have, however we feel The Liminal Space has created a positive and engaging way to connect the public to our research.’
The response from the public so far has been very encouraging.
One visitor said, ‘Admiration for a brilliantly put together, very informative exhibition. As a result of this exhibit we have decided to cut beef from our diet for the rest of the family.’
A visitor to Meat Your Persona commented, ‘I am inspired by all the recipes. I think giving up meat would be good for my health so I want to try to cut down.’
After a far busier start to 2021 than she could have possibly imagined, Lucy Yates is delighted both projects have launched successfully and is looking forward to a summer of lively engagement and hearing the public’s thoughts on meat eating.
Come to visit Meat the Future at the Oxford Museum of Natural History or catch Meat Your Persona in Leeds, Blackpool, Glasgow or online. If you are interested in reducing your meat consumption, you can also sign up for our cohort study at www.optimisediet.org.
Wellcome generously support both projects.