Encouraging Sustainable Food Choices: The Role of Information and Values in the Reduction of Meat Consumption
Meat production for human consumption has serious environmental implications, including contributing significantly to climate change. People’s behaviour about food choice, particularly meat, plays a key role in determining the future direction of food production. Meat production, in most cases, is more resource intensive and environmentally more expensive than plant based food production. For this reason, a shift in attitude about meat consumption needs to take place to reduce the environmental impact agriculture has on the planet (i.e. moving toward less meat intensive diets), particularly in developed countries. Attitudes and behaviour are influenced by values, which are guiding principles in people’s lives, making them important in the decision making process. This research explores the role of information as a means of changing attitudes towards meat consumption and environmental concern and whether this effect depends on an individual’s values. Survey participants were assigned randomly to a no-information control group, a message targeting self-enhancement values, or a message targeting self-transcendence values. Results indicate that information can significantly increase concern about an environmental issue but did not change attitudes towards meat consumption. Furthermore, the framing of a message can play a role in how people respond to the information provided, given their predisposing values. Implications of this research can be applied to future environmental information campaigns, through the increased effectiveness of targeted information.