How Much Will Consumers Pay For Meat Alternatives?
Eating meat comes with external costs to the environment and health, such as greenhouse gas emissions and increased risk of disease. While replacing meat with sustainable options may help reduce these negative effects, it’s important to understand what drives consumers’ willingness to pay higher prices for sustainable alternatives. That way policymakers will know which behaviors to target for change.
The authors of this study wanted to know if providing consumers with information on the environmental and health effects of meat consumption would influence their willingness to pay a premium for so-called “sustainably produced beef” and a plant-based meat substitute. Adult meat-eaters (N=261; 72% women) from the Midwestern U.S. were recruited and provided with a $10 budget and a 6-oz. package of farm-raised, sliced deli beef. Using an auction, they were allowed to ‘bid’ the amount they would be willing to pay to exchange their deli meat for the same amount of a sustainable option.
Results indicate that information on the negative effects of meat was not effective in motivating respondents’ long-term interest in consuming the meat alternatives, regardless of price, or to pay a premium for either product. A slight, non-significant trend toward paying a higher price for sustainable beef was observed among those who received the information. Women, but not men, who value payoffs in the present versus the future were more likely to pay a lower price for the sustainable beef. Meanwhile, for the plant-based alternative, a trend toward paying a lower premium was observed among respondents who received the information. Almost 33% of all bids for the plant-based meat substitute were zero, meaning participants would not pay any premium for such products.
It’s possible that respondents’ pre-existing attitudes towards meat may have influenced these results. Only 26% to 31% believed that reducing meat consumption is a realistic approach for addressing the negative environmental effects of meat production. Fewer than one-third (30%) had ever eaten plant-based meat alternatives, and among them, only 10% reported liking the taste. Only 21% agreed that plant-based meat alternatives are good for their health.
While this study focused on a narrow sample of U.S. adults, it provides key insights that can inform future policy efforts to encourage a reduction in meat consumption. One key takeaway is that to be successful in changing meat consumption behavior, information on its negative effects must be relevant and motivating. Creating effective messaging that is compelling, and communicating it often, could be one way to achieve this goal. The authors recommend trying different messages, such as the animal welfare harms of the meat industry, as well as combining informational campaigns with other methods, such as taxing harmful animal products.