18 May 2022, by CEN Universität Hamburg
Photo: Pixabay/ M. Schröder
Health, climate protection, and animal welfare motivate women to eat less red meat – especially in company: the conclusion of a new study from the University of Hamburg. Men, on the other hand, are hardly receptive to arguments against meat consumption.
Eating habits not only strongly depend on social environment and gender, but also whether and how people react to arguments against certain diets. Researchers, Grischa Perino and Claudia Schwirplies, of the University of Hamburg find that only women in their study were receptive to arguments against the consumption of red meat. Changing their dietary behavior however was only successful when eating meals together with others.
The aim of the study, published in the renowned "Journal of Environmental Economics and Management," was to find out which arguments against the consumption of red meat – health, climate protection, or animal welfare – indeed lead to a change in dietary behavior. Such arguments are regularly discussed in politics and the media. In their study, the researchers had over 500 people keep a food diary for six days over two consecutive weeks. After the first week, they randomly divided the participants into four groups. Three groups were given an excerpt from a press article to read, each dealing with a different argument against meat consumption – health, climate, and animal welfare. The control group also read an article on a nutrition topic, but without reference to meat consumption.
In doing so, the study led to several findings: A large majority of participants (77 to 88 percent) are already familiar with the arguments against meat consumption. No gender differences are apparent here yet. Agreement with the arguments is also relatively high. While men and women share in their agreement with the arguments in the health article with 60 percent approval, the values differ in the other two groups: about 60 percent approval from men and 75 to 80 percent from women.
There are also large differences between men and women in the consumption of red meat in the second week of the study. Compared to the control group, women reduce the number of meals featuring red meat by seven percent in the health group and by 10 percent in the animal welfare group. In addition, women enjoy their meals with red meat significantly less than the control group in all three groups. Men, on the other hand, eat the same amount of meat as the control group in the second week of the study, and their enjoyment of meals including red meat decreases only slightly, showing no statistically significant effects. The researchers also find that women reduce their consumption of red meat primarily at meals they eat with others, but not at those they eat alone. This suggests that a driving force behind behavior change among women is concern about how their dietary behavior is evaluated in the eyes of others.