Bristol restaurants will be the first in the UK to be recognised for 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 is harmful 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 award was launched by campaign group Flexitarian Bristol during Healthy City Week 2016.

Flexitarian food trails around the city ran during the week, allowing participants to try tasters at restaurants that have been awarded or are applying for the award. 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 of those 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, 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 emissions reductions 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 and environmental journalist George Monbiot.

Joy Carey, Director of Bristol Food Network and an elected member of the Bristol 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 in Bristol want to know that they can dine out without leaving their ethicsat 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 be awarded 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 the country to receive an award recognising this.”

The Flexitarian Restaurant Award is an initiative from Flexitarian Bristol, a group of passionate individuals working to ensure that Bristol leads the way in embracing a diet that’s sustainable for the health of its citizens and for the environment, through advocacy, education and promotional activity.