Consuming Less Meat For Me or For Us? How to stimulate people to consume less meat by using health or environmental information

Demi van der Plas
Supervisor: Marijn Meijers

How to stimulate people to consume less meat? An important question in the current time, because there is evidence that suggests meat has negative effects on human health and the environment. However, it seems that people are unaware of these effects and it is therefore quite difficult to stimulate them to consume less meat, as meat-eaters have an overall negative attitude and a low motivations towards consuming less animal products (Hoek, Pearson, James, Lawrence, & Friel, 2017). A study was done in order to investigate whether the use of information provision could enhance people’s knowledge about the existing relationship between meat consumption and the environment and/or health in order to decrease meat consumption. Furthermore, to enhance the relevance of the provided information, it was tested whether people’s pre-existing values could be used to increase the effectiveness of the provided information on the decrease of meat consumption. These pre-existing values related either to beliefs of the self (e.g. self-enhancement) or to others (e.g. self-transcendence). It was postulated that people with self-enhancement values were more persuaded by health information to consume less meat because they fit with self-enhancement values, while people with self-transcendence values were equally persuaded by health or environmental information to consume less meat.

These expectations have been tested with the help of Experience Sampling Methodology, an advanced technique that allows for more precise and reliable self-reporting as participants can report their thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors on multiple occasions over time, which comes in handy for logging meat consumption. Furthermore, the use of ESM in this project was considered to be less obtrusive as participants could use their own phone to fill in surveys. Last but not least, ESM allows for scheduling and automatic notification of sending surveys to participants. This was particularly useful in the current study, as people filled in their daily meat consumption, while also being exposed to the intervention messages which were about the health or environmental impact of meat consumption.

The study found some interesting findings to stimulate people to consume less meat. As such, it shows that providing information about the consequences of (not) eating meat on one’s health or the environment is already enough to lower the frequency of meat consumption. Furthermore, only health information is effective in lowering the quantity of meat consumption, compared to environmental information. However, there is a self-licensing effect in play for people with self-transcendence values, resulting in that they decrease their frequency of meat consumption but increase their quantity of meat consumption. Stimulating people to consume less meat can thus be done best by providing health information, but messages should include warnings about self-licensing effects, possibly increasing the effectiveness of such messages.


  • Hoek, A. C., Pearson, D., James, S. W., Lawrence, M. A., & Friel, S. (2017). Shrinking the food-print: A qualitative study into consumer perceptions, experiences and attitudes towards healthy and environmentally friendly food behaviours. Appetite, 108, 117–131.