One of Britain’s big four supermarkets says it is planning to rearrange its shelves in a bid to persuade consumers to purchase less meat. Sainsbury’s is partnering with boffins from the University of Oxford who claim that eating less meat would improve people’s health and help to fight climate change.

It is understood that Sainsbury’s is planning to start giving more vouchers to shoppers who purchase vegetable based items and that vegetarian alternatives will be placed close to meat products. According to reports, Sainsbury’s is also planning to give out recipe cards containing meat-free ideas.

The scheme will start this week and has been funded as part of a £5m Wellcome Trust project called Our Planet, Our Health. Marco Springmann, who is leading the research team at Oxford University said that diets that were high in red and processed meat and low in fruit and vegetables were responsible for health problems across the globe. He added that animals farmed for meat were responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gases and that huge swathes of land were needed to grow feed for these animals.

Increase in vegetarian and vegan diets

The project follows a big rise in the number of people adopting vegetarian and vegan diets following health advice that red meat is linked to cancer and other potentially deadly conditions. Many supermarkets and high street food chains have reacted to demand by offering vegan alternatives.

Scientists from Oxford say they believe that if everyone adopted a vegetarian diet, then 7.3 million deaths could be prevented annually across the world by 2050. Dr Springmann said while he did not expect everyone to become vegan, climate change impacts as a result of the current food system were becoming increasingly serious and would require habits to change. Sainsbury’s said it was working with Oxford University to help its customers to make informed choices.