Meat is off the menu

Rebecca Atkinson's picture

I haven’t been to many BBQs this August, mainly because of the miserable weather. But I wonder if there is another, more money-orientated, reason why so few of my friends have flung open their garden gates for charred bangers, soggy buns and undercooked chicken this summer?

Rising food prices have hit the headlines more than one time this year, and households appear to be feeling the pinch. A recent Moneywise poll found that 23% of users think food prices are the most worrying aspect of the economic downturn, closely followed by higher energy bills (20%), and petrol prices (17%).

No wonder, when the cost of food is, by some estimates, up 10% since the start of the year. Now, new research commissioned by the BBC has shown exactly how food price inflation is hitting our supermarket trolleys.

While fruit and vegetables, bread and dairy products have all gone up in price since the start of 2008, meat and fish have seen the biggest hike, increasing by a whopping 22.9%. Within this category, a 125g packet of ham is now 45.4% more expensive, while the price of a medium chicken is up 41.9%.

The impact of this huge jump is already being felt - by my friends at least. At a recent dinner party attended by seven carnivores, my (meat-loving) host served a completely meat-free meal, with spinach tarts to start and vegetarian lasagne for the main.

While the food was delicious, it raised a few eyebrows, especially among the men who complained that a meal without meat just wasn’t right. But, as my friend explained, buying meat for eight people is now just too expensive.

In fact, he went as far as to say that he was considering going completely vegetarian until such time as meat prices were affordable again.

So, is food price inflation going to turn us all into tofu-loving, lentil-eating vegetarians?

Personally, I have already tried to cut back on the meat I put in my trolley each week, and cans of chickpeas have practically taken over my kitchen cupboards. Of course, it is easier to buy cheaper cuts of meat (perhaps liver is going to make a comeback?) but it just doesn't make sense to me to spend even more on food at a time when my household bills are also going up.

And while I miss my Sunday roast, meat just doesn’t seem to taste so good when I’ve paid through the nose for it

Rebecca Atkinson is the news editor of  

The Moneywise guide to trimming your food bills

Your Comments

Good points Rebecca. I was so shocked the other day to see the price of chicken in my local Tesco - £6 for 4 chicken breasts - and they weren't organic either!! Found myself downsizing and choosing the turkey. I must say though I'm eating so much more fruit and vegetables now than I did last year. And in an effort to save even more money I've given up smoking too - it seems this whole 'credit crunch' and watching the pennies is making some of us healthier at least...although I did read somewhere that supermarkets are now selling more sugary goods than ever before, surprise surprise.

I have scaled back on my meat intake but I am still buying Organic or free range, preferably organic meat. I have cut back on organic everything else though, such as organic pasta sauce, and certain fruit and vegetables. My argument is that I've heard pretty terrible things about how pigs can be kept, when non organic, so if I buy chops I want to know that the animal hasnt suffered, whereas a carrot cannot suffer!

I suppose its a lifestyle choice at the end of the day isnt it. Neither my husband or I smoke and since I am pregnant Im barely drinking and husband is kind of not either in sympathy, so if I want to spend my disposable income on better food then I feel ok about doing so.

Having said that, I am a total cheap skate on things that I dont think matter, I never buy expensive scrubbing pads, 14p for 8 is fine by me. Equally, black bags, cling film, washing up gloves and tinned tomatoes are all the cheapest I can find.

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