Social media messages help reduce meat consumption

December 09, 2020

Sending direct messages on social media informing people of the negative health and environmental impacts of consuming meat has proven successful at changing eating habits, a new study from Cardiff University has shown.

The study showed that sending direct messages twice a day through Facebook Messenger led to a significant reduction in the amount of red and processed meat the participants consumed over a 14-day period.

Participants reported, on average, eating between 7 and 8 portions of red or processed meat during the previous week before the Facebook messages were sent, which then dropped to between 4 and 5 portions during the second week of the intervention and stayed at roughly the same level one month after the intervention.

Furthermore, the intervention led to an observed 'behavioural spillover' effect in which the participants indicated a desire to also reduce other types of meat they would consume in the future, alongside dairy products.

The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The health impacts of eating too much red and processed meat are well established, with links to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and certain forms of cancer.

Meat is also a major driver of climate change, responsible for approximately 15% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, with a growing consensus among scientists that reducing excess meat consumption will be necessary to meet climate change targets.

Yet, evidence suggests there is a lack of public awareness of the issue and that people tend to greatly underestimate the extent to which meat consumption leads to climate change.

"With Christmas approaching, it is a good time to consider how much meat we consume on a day-to-day basis and the impacts that this can have on the environment as well as our health," said Emily Wolstenholme from the School of Psychology, who led the study.

"Our study shows that making people aware of these climate impacts makes them think about their eating habits. It also shows that people are willing to make changes to help the climate."

A total of 320 participants were recruited for the study, who were then divided into either one of three experimental conditions, or the control group, and were sent messages through Facebook Messenger twice a day during the two-week intervention period.

Different messages were sent to participants in the experimental groups, each focussing on the environmental and/or health consequences of eating too much meat, for example: "If you eat only a small amount of red and processed meat, you will protect the environment by reducing the release of harmful greenhouse gases."

Participants were asked to complete a food diary every day during the two-week period to keep track of their diet.

Surveys were sent to participants at the end of the two-week intervention to measure their red and processed meat consumption, as well as other environmentally friendly behaviours. The same survey was repeated a month after the end of the intervention.

Over the two-week period the researchers observed a significant reduction in the amount of red and processed meat that was consumed by the participants receiving health messages, environmental messages and combined health and environmental messages - with no significant difference between each of these approaches.

Professor Wouter Poortinga, co-author of the study from the Welsh School of Architecture, said: "The results of the research are really encouraging. It shows that we can make changes to our diet, and if we all do, it can make a big difference for climate change"

Cardiff University

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to