Toward plant-based diets: How do people explain why they eat meat?

By Joyeeta Basu contact

- Last updated on GMT

The study looked at the 'meat paradox, which notes that while most people find animal suffering emotionally disturbing, they still eat meat
The study looked at the 'meat paradox, which notes that while most people find animal suffering emotionally disturbing, they still eat meat

Related tags: Meat consumption, Nutrition

Shifting consumers from a meat-focused diet to a more plant-based diet must take into account their perceptions of meat, a study has said.

The study published in Appetite​ said that it found three prominent reactions in consumers regarding meat on the whole -- a pattern of disgust coupled with moral internalisation; a low affective connection and willingness to change habits; and an attachment to meat and unwillingness to change habits.

The identification of the profiles could provide insight and an increased understanding of the psychology of meat consumption and meat substitution, it said.

It [could also] point towards the importance of designing tailored initiatives when encouraging a shift towards a more plant-based diet​,” it added. For instance, consumers who avoided meat could be most open to understanding the benefits of shifting to a plant-based diet, said the team of researchers.

The study however, added that more research was needed to “increase understanding of… consumers’ perspectives about meat consumption​” and underpin a transition towards a more plant-based diet.

Meat paradox

The study also looked at something known as the “meat paradox”, which notes that while most people find animal suffering emotionally disturbing, they still eat meat.

This could be a result of pro-meat justifications (“meat is necessary”, “meat is pleasure”) and self-exonerations (“not my fault”, “no alternative”) that discard personal responsibility concerning harm to animals and the possibility of changing consumption habits, said the study.

Meat and marketing

In terms of product development, the research suggested that when developing and launching meat substitutes, manufacturers could pay attention to the physical attributes such as taste and texture, as well as how the products were marketed, positioned and distributed.

Taking the hypothesis a step further, it said that perhaps for consumers who exhibited “high attachment to meat​”, it may be fruitful if they were asked to eat “a small portion of meat as a central protein source, surrounded by plant-based proteins”.

The study

The online questionnaire was accessible for eight weeks between May and July 2013 during which 410 participants (aged between 18 and 69 years) completed it.

Source: Appetite

Vol: 90 1 July 2015, pp. 80–90 doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.02.037

‘Meat, beyond the plate. Data-driven hypotheses for understanding consumer willingness to adopt a more plant-based diet’

Authors: João Graça, et al 

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