Reduce by how much? Calibrating meat reduction appeals to maximize their effectiveness



Meat-rich diets have a negative impact on animal welfare, consumer health, and the environment. In recent years, research has begun to explore which approaches are most effective at reducing consumption. A question that has been the subject of extensive debate is whether appeals are more effective when they ask people to reduce vs. eliminate meat from their diets. On the one hand, the negative externalities resulting from meat consumption are reduced more if a person fully abstains from eating meat. On the other hand, stronger requests likely lead to lower compliance rates. Thus, to identify which appeal leads to the overall greatest reduction in meat consumption, one has to balance (a) how many individuals comply with the request and (b) by how much individuals reduce their consumption if they comply. In two studies, with participants from the US, UK, Australia, and the Netherlands (N = 705), we explored participants’ reported meat consumption and willingness to comply with different week-long meat reduction appeals (10-100%) to identify which would lead to the greatest overall reduction in intended meat consumption. As expected, stronger requests lead to lower compliance rates. Mid-range requests (40-70%) were more effective than small requests (10%) or elimination requests (100%). Although we find some differences across countries, mid-range requests were most effective in each sample. Our findings provide first insights into how to calibrate appeals to achieve the greatest reduction in overall meat consumption.
Date made available2021

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