Restaurants lead the way in sustainable eating with new award

A new award launching this autumn will recognise restaurants taking proactive steps to reduce meat consumption.

In an innovative move to transform dining culture in the UK, The Flexitarian Restaurant Award celebrates eateries offering a diverse range of plant-based meals, higher welfare meat, fish and dairy products, and price incentives on meat-free dishes.

The scheme has emerged amid global concern that high meat consumption isharmful for the health of both people and planet. The flexitarian approach aims to emphasise that conscientious eating is both enjoyable and sustainable, and can offer more variety when dining out.

The campaign group behind the award – Flexitarian Bristol – have begun by awarding ten restaurants in their home city where the award is to be piloted. Amongst the first eateries to be recognised are Bristol favourites such as Thali Cafe, Bocabar, Better Food, Watershed and the group behind recently opened Old Market Assembly.

Restaurants are assessed against strict criteria including the proportion of plant-based dishes on their menus, the price difference ofthose dishes against those that contain meat or fish, and the welfare standards of the animal products they use.

Adopting a flexitarian diet involves eating less meat without ruling it out altogether, and choosing better quality meat and animal products, from less intensive farming systems.

Growing evidence suggests that high meat consumption is harmful to health and relies on intensive farming systems that damage the environment and have poor standards of animal welfare.

• According to a report published last year [1], the livestock sector accounts for 15 per cent of global emissions, equivalent to exhaust emissions from all the vehicles in the world. A shift to healthier patterns of meat-eating could bring a quarter of the emissionsreductions we need to keep on track for a two-degree world.

The Flexitarian Restaurant Award aims to encourage consumers to choose restaurants that make it easy for their customers to enjoy meals rich inplant-based foods and meat from higher welfare producers.

Flexitarian eating has high profile support from former mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson [source: https://twitter.com/GeorgeFergusonx/status/722419032444571648] and environmental journalist George Monbiot [source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/09/vegan-corrupt-food-system-meat-dairy?CMP=fb_gu].

Joy Carey, Director of Bristol Food Network and an elected member of theBristol Green Capital Partnership board, said: “Bristol has an incredibly diverse restaurant scene that is constantly innovating, with an increasing focus on sustainability and health. People eating out wantto know that they can dine out without leaving their ethics at home; diners know that restaurants who’ve achieved the Flexitarian Restaurant Award have the health of their customers and our shared environment at the heart of what they do.”

Siena Barnes, Marketing Manager at the Thali Cafe chain that is amongst the first restaurants to receive the Flexitarian Restaurant Award, said:“Providing delicious, ethical food to everyone, whether they be vegan, vegetarian or ‘flexitarian’, has always been at the heart of Thali’s ethos and we are delighted to be one of the first ten restaurants in thecountry to receive an award recognising this.”

Initially, the award team will be rolling the scheme out across Bristol and are keen to hear locals’ suggestions for their favourite flexitarian-friendly restaurant in the city. Diners can tweet the team @flexibristol or visit their website for details (www.flexiaward.org).