New Zealand cafes triumph on meatless Mondays and prepare for environmental change

In a recent study published in the journal Nutrients, Researchers conducted interviews and online surveys with hospital cafeteria employees to investigate variables of support and implementation of the Meatless Monday (MFM) movement. More than half of the 194 survey participants were actively contributing to the movement and almost 60% supported it. The study results revealed evidence of the benefits of MFMs, with greater inclusion and consultation with cafeteria employees being the most influential variables in making the movement successful.

Study: Meatless Mondays in hospital cafeterias in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Image credit: Created with the help of DALL·E 3

The scruples of a non-vegetarian diet

Unprecedented anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions find Earth at the tipping point of sustainable environmental health. The resulting climate change already poses serious threats to public safety, affecting climate (increased sporadic floods and droughts), disease (increased pathogen load), and food availability (reduced soil fertility and overdependence of chemical growth enhancers and genetically modified crops).

Surprisingly, the food system is a crucial driver of climate change: the agricultural industry represented one of the largest contributors to climate change, with methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock farming (14.5%) being the largest source of greenhouse gases worldwide. Meat production requires greater availability of land, water and food than crop production. Alarmingly, a growing body of research identifies that livestock farming in combination with overuse of antibiotics is central to the recent risk of diseases, both infectious and non-communicable, around the world.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of global mortality and are responsible for approximately 89% of all human deaths. NCDs are associated with a complex interplay between genetics, socioeconomics, and individual health behaviors. These health behaviors are modifiable, and diet is at the forefront of interventions to combat NCDs and improve public health. The New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey (2008/09) has identified critical deficits in the dietary composition of the average New Zealand citizen: only 32.8% of New Zealand adults meet prescribed food and vegetable requirements and almost all New Zealand adults do not meet recommended fiber intakes. .

Alarmingly, New Zealand has been identified as the sixthth The most meat-consuming nation in the world (per capita) according to the conclusions of the Organization for Economic Development (OECD). Research has associated long-term red meat consumption with an increased risk of non-communicable diseases, including type 2 diabetes (T2D), cancer, coronary artery disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and total mortality.

“In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission recommended a primarily plant-based diet, warning that profound changes must be made to the global food system to feed the world’s population of 10 billion within planetary limits by 2050.”

One possible response to growing concerns about excessive meat consumption is the Meatless Mondays (MM) campaign. Started in the US, the MMs campaign encourages people to give up meat every Monday and also attempts to replace 15% of current meat consumption with an equivalent vegetarian intake. It has gained worldwide popularity, with numerous cafes, hospitals, restaurants and even schools participating and advertising the benefits of the movement. However, not enough work has documented the public and environmental health impacts of MM compliance.

About the study

The present study investigates the facilitators and barriers to implementing the Meat Free Mondays (MFM) policy, a policy characterized by the free or subsidized provision of vegetarian diets in District Health Boards (DHBs) across New Zealand. The study was conducted to identify and provide recommendations to facilitate future policy implementations.

Three of the 20 DHBs in New Zealand were selected based on their different stages of MFM contemplation/implementation. DHB1 (Nelson Marlborough DBH) had been implementing the policy for over two years at the start of the study, DHB2 (Northland DBH) was in the process of testing the policy and DHB3 (Auckland DHB) was not implementing the policy.

This study comprised a 12-question online staff survey, semi-structured interviews with crucial labor representatives and an open survey of both DHB staff and the New Zealand public. The surveys and interviews were formulated based on input from a seven-member team consisting of three nutrition experts, a DHB manager, and three lay people. The surveys also collected participant demographics, eating habits, and general attitudes toward MFMs.

The χ2 The (Chi-square) test was used for statistical analyses. Larger studies could not be conducted due to insufficient sample sizes.

Study findings

The online survey sample cohort consisted of 194 respondents from DHB1 (54.1%) and DHB3 (45.9%). The majority of participants were women (76.3%) and belonged to the Pākehā ethnicity (72.7%). The majority of respondents were health professionals or other health professionals (28.9%). More than 60% of respondents ate meat (63.4%), and dietary minorities were flexitarians (18.6%), Pescatarians (7.2%), vegetarians (6.7%), and vegans (4.1%). %).

Encouragingly, more than 50% of meat-eating respondents reported taking active steps to replace meat-based foods with vegetarian alternatives.

“Approximately one and a half times as many respondents were vegan in DHB3 (12.4%) compared to DHB1 (8.9%). There were approximately twice as many flexitarians in DHB1 (25.8%) as in DHB3 (12.4%). %).”

Health, environmental concerns, and affinity for plant-based dishes were identified as the main facilitators of MFM policy implementation. Concerns for animal welfare and economic savings represented minor, although significant, factors in reducing meat consumption. On the contrary, knowledge (30.1%), taste (26.3%) and familiarity (16%) were identified as the main barriers against policy subscription.

Awareness was found to be high across all DHBs, with 65.5% of all respondents aware of the movement. However, understanding between DBH was found to vary greatly, with DHB1 accounting for 79.8% awareness versus DHB3, which described only 53.3%. Surprisingly, awareness in MZ hospitals was observed to be lower than that of the general population. Supportive statistical analyzes revealed that 58.8% of all participants supported the movement and were taking an active role in its implementation.

Interview results identified (unlike previous surveys) that environmental concerns and not health benefits were the most critical facilitators of movement among cafeteria managers.

“A proportion of respondents did not consider that reducing meat would have a positive impact on the environment. Some felt that other sustainable actions would have more benefits, such as packaging, recycling, reducing food transport and regenerative agriculture. This sentiment was echoed in the interviews and is aligned with other research in this area.


The present study investigates the facilitators and barriers to implementing the MFM campaign in three New Zealand DHBs at different stages of their policy implementation. Identifies misconceptions and lack of sufficient knowledge as important barriers to the continued success of the policy. It recommends reaching out to key players in the movement, including café managers, café staff and medical staff, as the best possible intervention for rapid and successful future implementation of the policy.

Magazine reference:

  • Ewens, E., Young, L., & Mackay, S. (2022). Meatless Monday in hospital cafes in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Nutrients, fifteen(22), 4797, DOI –,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *