Lowering barriers to plant-based diets: The effect of human and non-human animal self-similarity on meat avoidance intent and sensory food satisfaction

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The connection between plant-based diets and compassion is intuitive. Prior research has demonstrated that food of ethical origin subjectively tastes better to consumers who embrace ethical values. Since meat avoiders generally internalize the values associated with the avoidance of animal-derived products, higher levels of compassion are expected to enhance the subjective taste of meatless food choices, which has implications for lowering barriers to the adoption of vegetarian diets. Three experimental laboratory studies demonstrate that compassion improves the subjective taste of meatless foodstuffs and increases meat avoidance intent, which translates into a higher probability to choose a vegetarian wrap rather than a meat-containing wrap. Two online studies illuminate the underlying psychological process, which is mediated by perceived self-similarity to human and non-human animals. Identifying individual traits that are associated with heightened enjoyment of meatless foods facilitates marketing segmentation for meatless foodstuffs. Furthermore, the tested compassion-inducing visual stimuli can be adapted for product packaging or employed in restaurant décor to elevate consumers’ subjective taste of meatless foods, potentially counteracting the negative individual and societal health effects of excessive meat intake. The moderating effect of meat avoidance intent on subjective taste suggests that, for people who consider reducing their meat intake, transitory zones exist where the perceived enhancement in taste of vegetarian food is not sufficiently motivating to change dietary practices permanently and it may appear more rewarding to simply revert to meat consumption. Social marketers can focus on these zones where moral conflict about meat consumption is salient by providing support to make dietary transitions less frustrating. This set of studies is the first to articulate the connection between compassion and ethical food choices in a consumer-relevant context. The findings point towards avenues to promote meat reduction, improve individual physical and mental health, and reduce the environmental impact of meat production.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo104272
PublicaciónFood Quality and Preference
EstadoPublicada - oct. 2021


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