Climate Change and Meat Consumption Values

by Juana Granados

With the increase of greenhouse gas production every year and the growth of industrialized animal production, climate change mitigation in Western countries has become overly expensive. The world population continues to grow as farms resort to animal production increase because it provides the most income. Bread, once the protein of the west, has now been replaced by high demands of meat, the new protein. De Boer (2012) argues that climate change mitigation costs can be reduced by as much as 50% in 2050 if people choose at least one meal without meat weekly. The objective of de Boer’s study was to see how consumers respond to eating less meat in the hopes of improving climate change mitigation.

The study was focused on Netherland consumers who, on average, consume 87 kilograms of meat with bones per capita per year. Of the three hypotheses, the first predicted that there will be a negative correlation between the frequency of meat consumption and “universalism”. Research has shown that “universalism,” nature-related values, is strongly associated with vegetarians and people who consume very little meat. The second hypothesis was that the meat-free idea will be more accepted by those who value care for nature than those who do not. The last hypothesis was that the meat-free idea will be more accepted by those who do not question the seriousness of climate change in comparison to those who are skeptical and unaccepting. Survey participants consisted of a nationwide sample of 1,083 participants from the Netherlands. The results supported the first hypothesis, in which almost all of the participants were meat eaters not associated with a “universal” attitude. The second hypothesis, supported that the meat-free meal idea would be received more positively by consumers who value care for nature than those who do not. The third hypothesis was not supported because those who were serious about climate change did not significantly support the meat-free idea. Overall, the study concluded that although a change in meat-eating habits can lead to cheaper climate change mitigation, there can still be negative responses from consumers who are skeptical about climate change. Thus, there needs to be more specificity between climate change and meat consumption because it is not yet perceived as urgent. People do not want to self-sacrifice without a good reason.

De Boer, J., Schosler, H., Boersema, J.J. 2012. Climate change and meat eating: An inconvenient couple? Journal of Environment Psychology 33, 1-8.

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