By Pelican MD Michael Bennett
Following the success of Veganuary (over 400,000 people had pledged to take part) it’s no surprise the UK’s beleaguered meat industry feels the need to fight back with the launch of #MeatyMarch on Twitter.
But has the new initiative fallen at the first hurdle after being hijacked by the meat-free lobby?
It seems that meat in general, and red meat in particular, is being blamed for fuelling climate change and creating a range of health problems.
MeatManagement.com reported in February that “Meaty March will provide the whole of the meat industry with an opportunity to promote the benefits of meat and poultry in the diet as well as to challenge the notion that plant based diets are somehow better for a person’s health.”
The publication also reported that the campaign has the backing of major industry bodies, including AHDB, the Q Guild of Butchers, LMC and the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS).
There is increasing evidence that sustainably produced meat has a beneficial role in our diets and in the fight against climate change. At the recent City Food Lecture global thought leader Professor Louise Fresco said that giving up on meat is not going to save the planet and that grasslands used for grazing cattle are probably the best possible way for us humans to capture carbon and leave it in the soil.
As we’ve said in previous Pelican blogs a mass move to veganism could cause significant environmental damage.
So #MeatyMarch has an important case to make. Unfortunately it’s already been hijacked by the growing veggie and vegan lobby.
“The brand said its “mischievous move” to appropriate the grassroots Meaty March campaign would draw attention to the meaty taste and texture credentials of plant-based alternatives.“We’re a next generation meat alternative and our products use plants to deliver the same sensory experience as meat,” said Meatless Farm co-founder Morten Toft Bech. “This means that in essence we support the nature of #MeatyMarch, which is people enjoying meatiness.”
What Veganuary, Meatless Farm and a whole range of other plant-based campaigns and brands have done is create a groundswell of consumers, influencers and personalities who are advocates for their message. Plus, they’ve got the ability to pull on the heartstrings by showing pictures of fluffy animals whose fate is to be turned into chops, pies and burgers.
The overall effect is they appear to be Purpose Driven with everyone’s best interests at heart. Rather than single issue campaign groups and companies looking to make money, which many of them are.
The meat industry needs to learn from this approach by creating a counter groundswell in favour of meat consumption. Challenging negatives isn’t enough. The ‘brand story’ of meat needs to be told more effectively.
Eating sustainably reared meat could be repositioned as a positive environmental choice as well as a healthy option.
Advocates and influencers could then be recruited to make the case for a diet containing meat. And the work of real-life farmers in protecting the environment and rearing animals to the highest welfare standards can be showcased.
Add to this the fact that the meat industry could easily out spend the veggie and vegan lobby when it comes to marketing, and there’s no excuse for not doing more.
However, with so many different organisations working across the industry: AHDB, the Q Guild of Butchers, LMC and the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) and the NFU to name but a few, there’s a real need for co-ordination. Campaigns for sausages, pork, lamb, beef and chicken may all have their place, but until the entire industry makes a better case to convince millennials that eating meat is good for them and the environment, the number of people pledging to take part in Veganuary will continue to grow and grow.
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