Meat Free Monday One day a week can make a world of difference


The basics

Why Monday?

By reducing your consumption of animal products – any day or days of the week – you can help slow climate change, protect the environment and live a healthier life. The campaign focuses around Mondays because this is often when people set positive intentions and get ‘back on track’ with a fresh start to the week. As Paul McCartney said: “A lot of people go to the gym on a Monday after a big weekend. With Meat Free Monday, it’s a bit like going to the gym, but with the added advantage of protecting the planet.”

Is one day a week really enough?

Overwhelming scientific evidence points to the fact that we need to shift towards predominantly plant-based diets to help combat climate change. Meat Free Monday makes a positive difference and it’s a great start. Overall, the fewer animal products we eat, the better. Why not try out our impact calculator and work out the tangible impact of your meat free days?  

Try the impact calculator

Is it OK to eat fish?

Despite the campaign name, Meat Free Monday encourages supporters to go fish free too. Industrialised fishing vessels with their football-pitch sized nets, or lines of hooks a mile long, trash coral reefs and ocean beds, kill and injure marine wildlife including dolphins, turtles and sea birds, and are pushing the oceans to the brink of environmental collapse.

Watch 'Seaspiracy'

What about dairy?

Dairy products have a significant environmental impact. According to Milking the Planet, a 2020 report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in the US, the 13 biggest dairy companies in the world have the same combined greenhouse gas emissions as the whole of the UK! With supermarket shelves full of plant milks – soya, oat, almond, coconut, hemp, rice and tiger nut– plus more and more non-dairy alternatives to cheese, yoghurt, cream and ice-cream coming onto the market, it’s now easier than ever to enjoy plant-based Meat Free Mondays. And let’s not forget the animals. Andrea Arnold’s 2021 documentary ‘Cow’ provides a unique opportunity to look at life through the eyes of a dairy cow called Luma.

Find out more

What about eggs?

The production of eggs, like other intensive produce, generates negative effects on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions and soil and water contamination. According to a 2018 study from the University of Oviedo in Spain, producing feed for egg-laying hens is also problematic. With so many egg-free alternatives available, including chickpea (gram) flour which can be used for batters and binding, flaxseed which can be mixed with water for baking, and aquafaba (the liquid found in cans of chickpeas) which can be used in place of egg white, it’s easy to skip eggs on Mondays. Why not whip up a delicious tofu scramble instead?

Try Tobermory’s Tofu Scramble

What’s your beef with … beef?

When it comes to converting nutrients into energy, animals are very inefficient. Only 5 to 25 per cent of the nutrients (depending on the animal) are converted into edible meat. The rest is spent on the animal’s metabolism and on building inedible nerve and bone tissue. The inefficiency is especially high for beef – in fact it can take up to 12 kg of grain to make 1 kg of beef. Around 60% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef produces less than 5% of the world’s protein and less than 2% of its calories. As highlighted in Greenpeace’s film ‘Monster’, beef production is also directly responsible for Amazon deforestation. Paul McCartney said: “The world’s forests are truly irreplaceable. They’re home to Indigenous Peoples, amazing wildlife and are vital in our fight against the climate crisis. But these forests are being cleared at a shocking rate to farm more industrial meat and dairy. This is why reducing our meat is so important.”

Watch Greenpeace’s ‘Monster’ film

Why do meat reducers, vegetarians and vegans eat ‘mock’ meats?

A lot of people like the taste of meat but want to have a kinder footprint on the planet. With such a wide variety of plant-based products available – including veggie ‘mince’, ‘chicken’ nuggets, ‘ham’ and ‘turkey’ slices, roast ‘beef’, vegan ‘steaks’, veggie ‘haggis’, fishless fingers and more – we really can have our cake and eat it!


Wider issues

What about animals?

In order to keep up with global demand for burgers, bangers, steaks and nuggets, around 60 billion animals are farmed and killed each year. The vast majority are raised in intensive ‘factory farms’, inside which they are crammed into small, dirty, overcrowded enclosures or cages. The life of a farmed animal is a short and unhappy one, culminating in a bloody end at the slaughterhouse. Choosing plant-based food is a compassionate step that helps prevent cruelty and suffering.

Is free-range/grass-fed/local/‘humane’ meat OK?

From a Meat Free Monday perspective, the short answer to this is no. The 2017 report Grazed and Confused, by the Food Climate Research Network, explores whether beef from grass-fed cows has higher welfare, nutrition and environmental credentials than meat from animals that eat intensively farmed, high-protein feeds. It concludes that grazing livestock – even in a best-case scenario – are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Meat Free Monday therefore suggests skipping animal products on Mondays, free range or otherwise.

Find out more

Shouldn’t we stop eating soya?

With so many soya-based products available, plant-based eaters are sometimes blamed for rainforests being destroyed in order to grow soya – but only a fraction of this crop actually ends up on our plates! Over 80% of the world’s soybeans are turned into feed for farmed animals. Many eco-conscious people therefore consume some soya as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Based on its nutritional profile alone, it is safe to say that soya fits within current healthy eating guidelines and scientists generally agree that soya protein can help promote good health.

Isn’t palm oil bad for the planet, and that’s in lots of meat free food?

Palm oil is indeed found in many meat free foods including biscuits, pastry, chocolate and margarine, and it is sometimes used in household products such as shampoo and toothpaste. Palm oil production can be hazardous for the climate and the world’s forests and wildlife. Some people choose products which contain ‘sustainable palm oil’ but, according to many, the sustainable label is not all it’s cracked up to be. Boycotting palm oil may also not be the solution, as this could result in a mass switch to another type of vegetable oil which requires even more land. Buying from manufacturers which are committed to removing deforestation from their products (for example by using ‘deforestation-free sustainable palm oil’) therefore seems to be a sensible option. In the UK there’s a great barcode-scanning app called Giki which can help with this.

Try Giki


The history

How did Meat Free Monday start?

Going meat free one day a week is not a new concept … In the USA during World Wars 1 and 2, ‘Meatless Tuesday’ and ‘Wheatless Wednesday’ were introduced to encourage families to reduce their consumption of key foods and help the war effort. The idea was revived in 2003 by former ad man turned health advocate Sid Lerner who, in association with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, introduced Meatless Monday as a public health campaign. The health benefits of skipping meat for one day a week were promoted in Australia too, but it was the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2006 Livestock’s Long Shadow report that began to open people’s eyes to the environmental impact of meat and dairy, and sparked the growth of a global movement.

How is the McCartney family involved?

The McCartney family has a long history of interest in sustainable food – from Paul’s organic spelt farm to the Linda McCartney vegetarian food range – but it was the UN’s 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, which really drew Paul’s attention to the importance of making more environmentally and socially conscious food choices. He and his daughters, Mary and Stella, launched the Meat Free Monday campaign in 2009.

Where is Meat Free Monday happening?

From Belgium (Donderdag Veggiedag) to Brazil (Segunda Sem Carne), Hungary (Húsmentes Hétfő) to Hong Kong (Green Monday), individuals, schools, hospitals, businesses and restaurants all around the world are experiencing how easy and enjoyable it is to skip meat for at least one day a week – for their health and the health of the planet.

Check out our global map

Where do you get all your facts and figures?

We get our facts and figures from published research and reports by scientists, doctors, environmentalists and reputed organisations.

Check out the sources


Health and nutrition

Isn’t eating meat necessary to stay healthy?

Study after study supports the idea that a wholefood plant-based diet is optimal for health and well-being. The British Dietetic Association states that well-planned plant-based diets “can support healthy living at every age and life-stage”. The US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”.

Is there enough protein in a meat free diet?

Yes there is. In Western countries, our problem is that we get too much protein, not too little, and this is causing health problems. Most Britons get at least twice as much protein as they need, and too much protein, especially animal protein, can increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease. There is protein in whole wheat bread, nuts, oatmeal, beans, corn, peas, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables and vegetables like broccoli – almost every food. Unless you eat a great deal of processed, greasy fast food, it’s almost impossible to eat as many calories as you need for good health without getting enough protein.

What about calcium?

Plant-based food offers plenty of calcium – for example swede, okra, broccoli, dried figs, chia seeds, almonds and dark green leafy vegetables (especially kale, spinach, watercress and pak choi). Fortified soya milk and calcium set tofu and are also good sources of calcium.

Don’t you need to eat fish to get your Omega-3?

Omega-3 is vital for the immune system, brain, nerves and eyes so, whatever your diet, it’s important to consume good sources of this on a regular basis. Fish don’t actually produce their own Omega-3, they get it from the algae that they eat. So many vegetarians and vegans get omega-3 by taking vegan algae-based supplements (available online and in health food shops). Omega-3 is also found in flaxseed and flaxseed oil, hempseed and hempseed oil, walnuts and rapeseed oil.

Where can I get iron from?

Iron-rich foods include green leafy vegetables (for example, spinach, kale and cabbage), dried apricots, figs, dates, beans, lentils, tofu, millet, peas and pumpkin seeds.

Where can I get zinc from?

Zinc-rich foods include kidney beans, almonds, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils and tofu.

How can a plant-based diet be healthy if vegans need to take B12 supplements?

Vitamin B12 is important for the nervous system and in the formation of red blood cells. It’s produced by bacteria – not animals or plants – therefore animals, including humans, need to get it directly or indirectly from bacteria. 90% of vitamin B12 supplements produced in the world are fed to livestock. This is because heavy antibiotic use in industrial farming kills B12-producing bacteria in the guts of farmed animals. In order to maintain a source of this vitamin in meat, B12 is therefore added to animal feed. So whether we get B12 from an animal that has had B12 supplements or take B12 supplements directly ourselves, the effect on our health is the same.


Meat Free Monday in schools

Why should schools support MFM?

Meat Free Monday is an effective way for schools to help their students become healthier, informed citizens who can contribute to a more sustainable future. It’s a ‘win-win’ – students eat healthily and learn about the global impact of their food choices and the school reduces its carbon emissions and provides an integrated, ‘whole school’ approach to global citizenship.

How does MFM actually work in schools?

Many UK schools have a rotating three-week menu, with a meat option and a vegetarian option offered each day. Schools that take part in MFM simply make both options plant based on Mondays.

How long should schools sign up for?

Meat Free Monday benefits both people and planet, so ideally it would be adopted long term as an ongoing initiative for the school. Schools which have participated in Meat Free Monday for some time find that it soon fits into the usual routine. Initially, we suggest that schools sign up for a full year so that students really understand the issues and get familiar with a wide range of plant-based food. The longer the project, the greater the impact! However, if your school wishes to trial Meat Free Monday for a shorter period, that would still be encouraged. We are confident that once a school sees how beneficial the initiative is to all involved, they will keep Mondays meat free. Check out our case study with Preston Manor All-Through Co-operative School which has been taking part for over 10 years!

Read the Preston Manor case study

Should schools go meat free all day or just for Monday lunchtime?

Meat Free Monday in schools focuses on school hours only but we encourage staff members and students to remain meat free the whole day (or more) if they want to. We can help by providing lots of delicious meat free recipes as well as practical tips for meat free living.

What if a student doesn’t wish to participate or a parent/guardian doesn’t want their child to participate?

Schools may wish to allow students to opt out of Meat Free Monday (by having a parent or guardian write to the school). Alternatively, schools may wish to treat Meat Free Monday the same way as other environmental or health policies in which everyone participates. For example, many schools have Healthy School Lunchbox policies whereby sugary drinks and sweets are not permitted. A whole school approach – implemented following proper consultation with students, parents, staff and governors – promotes consistent messages, clarity and an opportunity to make a real impact. Ultimately, it’s up to each school to agree its own position on this, though we are happy to advise.

Get in touch

Should students who bring packed lunches go meat free too?

We suggest that schools encourage students who bring packed lunches to go meat free, but currently in most schools the choice is theirs. Once students understand the reasons for having a meat free day, it is hoped that they will be excited and interested in the project and will choose to participate. The more people who take part, the bigger the impact!

How will vegetarian and vegan students benefit from Meat free Monday?

Like non-vegetarian students, vegetarian and vegan students will have the opportunity to explore the reasons why reducing one’s meat consumption is good for the planet. And rather than having just one plant-based option, they will have a wider choice of plant-based foods not always available in school meals.

Why don’t you just suggest that schools cut down on meat everyday rather than stop completely for one day?

A weekly meat free day is a clear concept, easier to manage for caterers and promotes unity and the sharing of ideas. It also means that school communities really get to know a range of plant-based food selections which they might be less likely to if meat was still provided every day.

Should staff members participate?

Yes, we encourage all members of the school community to take part – students, catering staff, teachers, site manager, and Headteacher. Not only does this set a good example to children and young people, but the greater number of participants, the greater the impact. Why not try out the impact calculator to work out your school’s potential impact?

My school already has a meat free day once a week. Is it still worth us signing up?

Yes. Signing up to Meat Free Monday will give you the opportunity to network with other schools, share good practice, stay up to date with Meat Free Monday news and get recognition for the difference you are making.

Register your school

What are the government guidelines on school lunches in England?

A set of School Food Standards, with accompanying guidance, ‘A practical guide for schools their cooks and caterers’, was launched by the government in 2014 – and this included a recommendation for all school children to have a weekly meat-free day. More recently the government commissioned a National Food Strategy. Published in 2021, this called for the UK to eat 30% less meat, and included a recommendation for public canteens, including schools, to have one day a week dedicated to plant-based food: “If all public caterers moved to having even one meat-free day a week, this could reduce meat consumption by 9,000 tonnes a year, saving over 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Find out more

How can my school get involved?

Download our Schools Pack. With lesson plans, case studies, recipes and a sample introduction letter which can be sent to parents and carers, the pack has everything you need in order to activate Meat Free Monday at your school! If you have any specific queries, please email [email protected].

Download the Schools Pack
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