A new study recently published in the journal PLOS One casts new light on how consumers and their perceptions of how meat is raised shapes their opinions on how meat tastes.
The study, led by Northeastern University Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, paired identical meat samples with different descriptions of farms on which the livestock was raised. When it came time for participants to pick the better-tasting meat, they believed meat labeled as coming from a “factory farm” was found to be less pleasant in appearance, smell, taste and overall enjoyment.
In addition, participants were willing to pay 22% less for the “factory farmed” product and consumed 8% less than meat from animals raised on what researchers described as “humane farms.”
Detailing“factory farms” in a positive light did not alter how participants enjoyed the samples. Interestingly, labeling meat as coming from a “humane farm” did not appear to increase how much the participants liked meat in this category. In other words, consumers in the study showed a reaction only to the "factory farm" labeled meat, which was negative.
“We show that what you feel very directly influences not only how you interpret what you see but also very literally what you see,” said Barrett. “We call this ‘affective realism’—the tendency of your feelings to influence the actual content of your perceptual experience.”
Barrett added, “Beliefs are really powerful. Words are really powerful. They influence what you do, often in surprising ways.”