- UK-based research highlighted that social media messaging could be an effective tool for encouraging people to reduce meat consumption.
- High meat consumption contributes significantly to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, with its reduction being essential to approach climate change goals.
- The research at Cardiff University demonstrated that people consumed less meat when presented with social media messages about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
- After receiving educational messages, participants reduced their meat consumption from seven to eight portions per week to four to five portions, with this change enduring even a month after the messaging concluded.
- The shift in dietary habits following the social media interventions led to a “behavioral spillover,” encouraging participants to also consider reducing dairy and other types of meat.
The growing role of digital communication in shaping people’s behaviors has ushered in a fresh wave of opportunities for positive change. A recent UK-based research indicated that social media messaging could prompt people to reduce the amount of meat they consume, thus potentially countering climate change. The medium of choice for this study? Facebook Messenger.
“The findings from our study are indeed promising,” quoted Wouter Poortinga, a co-researcher of the study who holds a professorship in environmental psychology at Cardiff University in Wales. According to him, making dietary changes on a collective scale can significantly impact the course of climate change.
The Connection between Meat Consumption and Climate Change
One of the prominent contributors to global climate change is meat production, which is accountable for approximately 15% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists are under the consensus that decreasing excessive meat consumption is crucial for meeting climate change goals. However, it appears that there is a widespread underestimation of meat consumption’s contribution to climate change.
Scientific Approach to Meat Consumption Reduction
The Cardiff University research demonstrated that individuals were likely to consume less meat when they received messages highlighting the health and environmental benefits of doing so. This experiment included 320 participants divided into three separate groups and a control group. The participants received direct messages via Facebook Messenger twice per day for duration of two weeks.
The experimental groups were delivered messages that discussed the health and/or environmental affectes of a high meat diet. They were also tasked with maintaining a daily food log for these two weeks. Both before the messaging began and a month after it concluded, participants completed surveys on their meat consumption and environmentally friendly behaviors.
Consequences of the Study
Prior to the social media messaging, participants consumed, on average, seven to eight portions of red or processed meat each week. By the second week of messaging, this figure fell to four to five portions, and remained somewhat similar one month later. The social media messages inspired a “behavioral spillover,” which implied that the participants also expressed a desire to reduce their dairy product and other types of meat consumption.
This intriguing study was published in the academic journal, Frontiers in Psychology.
Research lead Emily Wolstenholme, a Cardiff University research student, highlighted the study’s timeliness. “As we approach Christmas, it’s the perfect occasion to evaluate our daily meat consumption and understand its environmental and health-related impacts,” she mentioned. “Our research highlights that people are more likely to rethink their eating habits and take positive steps towards helping the environment when they become aware of the climate impacts.”
For those interested in additional details about climate change, more information can be sought through an external outlet like NASA’s overview on climate change.
Source: Cardiff University press release, 9th December 2020.