Intentional eating replaced harsh, restrictive diets in years past, but consumers are finding that rigid rules for indulgence, even with the best of intentions, aren’t always easy to stick to. Now, people are relinquishing their preferred diets in select situations for social, familial, and practical reasons.

Social omnivores, a term coined by Bon Appétit, are vegetarians or vegans who will eat meat and animal-based products with friends or family, at a restaurant, or for a special occasion, but never at home. Diners included in the feature attributed their nuanced diets to sympathy for a host cooking for many, not wanting to be a nuisance by altering the menu, as well as compassion for the welfare of animals and the environment that industrial meat production so regularly disrupts.

A desire to consume intentionally has infiltrated many aspects of people’s lives: from ritualistic apps and feel-good feeds, to meaningful travel destinations, to diets and drinking. Many gen Z and even older consumers have labeled their alcohol consumption habits as sober-curious: drinking intentionally, often for celebration, with the risks and potential harm it can have in mind. Mindful consumption is reserved for social situations so that these cautious consumers can still have fun and feel involved.

The gourmands willing to bend for their social welfare are leading a new wave of eaters. Rather than inflicting hard-and-fast restrictions on their diets, allowing meals to bend to their environment and situation allows environmentally-minded consumers to maintain traditions and celebrate freely while continuing their individual cooking and food practices that align with their personal values in private.

Jay Yeo, a product designer from Scotland, tells VML Intelligence a bit more about her own experience trading off food preferences for quality and practicality reasons.

How much meat do you typically include in your diet?

I never disliked eating meat, so I never really considered myself vegetarian or vegan, but I guess I started actively not buying any processed meat like spam, sausages or even bacon. I [became interested in] climate change, and then I stopped buying red meat.

Do you consider eating meat when out at restaurants, or eating socially?

[My husband and I] still really appreciate the good quality meat. We tend to go for any menu that is quite hard to cook at home: fried stuff, good quality meat, steak, things like that. That's when we choose to eat meat.

Being in Scotland, salmon is quite a big thing and we often go for that as well.

So, would you say you only meat when you’re out to eat, or do you ever buy meat to make at home? 

Recently, I started to buy some red meat because I found a really good butcher and fishmonger near us, so I want to support the local business. I never ever buy red meat from the supermarket here because I don't like [wasteful] packaging, but if it's from the butchers, then I just bring my [container] and ask them [to fill it].

I'm not that strict on that matter. [My friends and family] think “ohh Jay loves meat!” What will stop me eating meat is if it’s processed meat: sausages and nuggets, I'm not getting any of those. But if it's a really nice proper place, maybe [they’re known for] an amazing burger, then, OK, I'll give a try.

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