Australians’ Commitment To Eating Meat
As animal advocates, we know that the food people choose to eat is personal, and old habits die hard. Knowing how willing someone is to change their eating habits, and what factors might make them do so, is a key puzzle piece for advocacy.
The aim of this study was to examine how willing consumers of one developed country – Australia – are to changing their dietary habits to eating less meat. It also examined what factors plays a role in determining whether or not consumers are willing to change their diets, if at all.
The participants of the study were asked to fill out an online questionnaire. In particular, they were asked to rate their willingness to reduce their consumption of meat somewhat or entirely. They were also asked about how frequently they ate meat, whether they had made any recent changes in their consumption of meat, and their reasons for doing so. It also covered questions on their views on meat-free diets.
Based on the findings, the researchers then divided the participants into four distinct groups:
- The first was a group of ‘committed meat eaters’ who were unwilling to make any changes in their diet. This group was the largest of the four, making up 46% of the participants. The results showed ‘committed meat eaters’ were less likely to be influenced by the consequences of meat production on our climate, and were less concerned about how and where meat is produced. They also did not think that meat-free diets have adequate food choices.
- The second group was termed ‘willing meat reducers’ and comprised 22% of the participant sample. This group was willing to eat less meat, but was unwilling to give up meat entirely. They did, however, tend to buy more ‘Certified Humane beef, chicken and pork’ as well as meat without added hormones or antibiotics. They were more likely to be influenced by climate factors than ‘committed meat eaters’ as well as how meat is produced, and they did tend to agree that meat-free diets have adequate food choices.
- ‘Undecided meat eaters’ were the third group. This group comprised 17% of the participants and was made up of people who were undecided whether or not to give up meat or not. The results show that this group was willing to eat meat-alternatives more than once a week. Interestingly, however, they were less likely than ‘willing meat reducers’ to think that meat production influences climate change.
- The last group was called the ‘Prospective Veg*ns’ who were willing to change their diet entirely. Sadly, this was the smallest of all the groups and comprised only 15% of the participants. Compared to all other groups, ‘Prospective Veg*ns’ were most likely to think that climate change plays a role in meat production. They also tended to eat several meat-free alternatives per week and were the more likely to exclusively buy humanely produced meat, with no added hormones or antibiotics.
Overall, the results indicate that roughly half of the Australian population are committed to continue eating meat, and are not willing to make any dietary changes in the future. The other half is more likely to make a change toward a meat-free diet.
One thing the researchers pointed out is how small the number of Australians is that believe meat production has a negative impact on the environment. Previous research furthermore suggests that even if people are aware of this, it is nevertheless not enough to convince them to reduce or stop consuming meat.
Another relevant thing to draw attention to is the link that can be seen between an intention to eat less meat in groups 2 and 4, and their self-reported preference for organic meat without antibiotics or added hormones. This could, among other possible explanations, indicate that people who are keen to reduce their meat consumption become more selective about what meat they do eat.
Additionally, the researchers also noted a key difference between committed meat eaters and all other groups: the former tend to regard meat-free alternatives as inadequate whereas none of the other groups do. This suggests that beliefs about meat alternatives play a role in some people’s unwillingness to eat less meat.
Lastly, the researchers also point out that past behavior might play a role in meat consumption: committed meat-eaters have not reported having made any changes to their diet in the past, and might, therefore, be less inclined to do so in the future.
The results of this study are of relevance when it comes to meeting demand for meat and meat alternatives. The insights it gives into the factors that influence meat consumption are important to further encourage a trend-towards meat-free diets. Lastly, the results can also be of insight to policymakers who are focused on different consumer-based strategies to combat climate change. Though the results are Australia-specific, they offer interesting insights that may be more broadly applicable.