In a new study published in Appetite, a trio of Dutch researchers is suggesting the “new initiatives are needed” to reduce global meat consumption in advance of the mid-century point, when the authors claim that demand will outstrip supply.
That’s not exactly fresh, breaking news, I’ll admit. But what’s interesting is what the authors are advocating is actually counter-intuitive.
Let me explain what I mean.
The researchers — Joop de Boer, Hanna Schosler, and Harry Aiking — interviewed more than 1,000 people to try to determine which strategies worked best in lowering meat consumption. De Boer, who is a senior researcher in the Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University in Amsterdam, told FoodNavigator.com that different strategies appear to have different strengths and weaknesses, making them complementary pathways to facilitate changes in the amounts and sources of protein consumed.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that a shotgun approach seems to have an impact, but may not be enough — if, of course, the goal is to get people to stop eating meat in the manner that they’ve always done.
“Meat’s special status in society is closely connected to the structure of meals, such as the notion of one piece of meat and two vegetables,” de Boer said. “Hence, just asking consumers to eat less meat may trigger not only resistance to change but also confusion regarding the amounts and sources of protein.”
That’s a very fancy way of saying that meat has always been at the center of the plate and taking it away entails a lot more than rhetoric about impending planetary destruction.
The real source of the problem
The research team’s report went on to suggest that certain consumer segments would respond better to different arguments and strategies. There’s a name for that — I believe it’s called “Marketing 101.”
Further, they make the point that “change strategies” should focus on “the whole diet, and pay attention to a whole diverse range of dietary choices.”
Such fabulous insights are Exhibit A for people working to make the case against funding for academic research. Even when the conclusions of some study are couched in appropriate scientific blather, it starts to sound like a re-statement of the obvious.
But here is the real problem with this study and every other one aimed at reducing global consumption of animal protein: It’s not the methodology, or even the conclusions that are the problem. It’s the fact that the premise is all wrong.