Are meat options preferred to comparable vegetarian options? An experimental study
Pechey R., Hollands GJ., Marteau TM.
© 2021, The Author(s). Objective: Reducing meat consumption would have substantial benefits both in terms of health and environmental impact, but meat options may be more attractive to customers than meat-free options. This study tested this by presenting UK adults (n = 540) with a series of pictures showing two meal options and asking them to select which they would prefer to eat right now. They completed this task for every possible pair from a pool of six comparator meat-based options and six target options (66 pairs). Participants all saw identical comparator options, and were randomised to see the same pictures of target options but with descriptions that suggested they were either meat-based or vegetarian. Results: Selections were used to rank the options for each individual from 1 (most-selected) to 12 (least-selected). Vegetarian target options were ranked worse [by 1.23 places (95% CI: 1.02, 1.44)] than meat target options. Higher self-reported consumption of meat predicted worse mean rankings of target options when these were vegetarian, but not when target options were meat-based. This suggests meat options are preferred to equivalent vegetarian options and may be more likely to be selected. This has implications for interventions aiming to reduce meat consumption to make diets healthier and more sustainable.