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Consumer Readiness to Reduce Meat Consumption for the Purpose of Environmental Sustainability: Insights from Norway

Marthe Hårvik Austgulen (), Silje Elisabeth Skuland (), Alexander Schjøll () and Frode Alfnes ()
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Marthe Hårvik Austgulen: Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, P.O. BOX 4, St. Olavs plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway
Silje Elisabeth Skuland: Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, P.O. BOX 4, St. Olavs plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway
Alexander Schjøll: Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, P.O. BOX 4, St. Olavs plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway
Frode Alfnes: Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, P.O. BOX 4, St. Olavs plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 9, 1-24

Abstract: Food production is associated with various environmental impacts and the production of meat is highlighted as a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. A transition toward plant-based and low-meat diets has thus been emphasised as an important contribution to reducing climate change. By combining results from a consumer survey, focus group interviews and an in-store field experiment, this article investigates whether Norwegian consumers are ready to make food choices based on what is environmentally sustainable. We ask how consumers perceive the environmental impacts of food consumption, whether they are willing and able to change their food consumption in a more climate-friendly direction, and what influences their perceptions and positions. The results show that there is uncertainty among consumers regarding what constitutes climate- or environmentally friendly food choices and that few consumers are motivated to change their food consumption patterns for climate- or environmental reasons. Consumers’ support to initiatives, such as eating less meat and increasing the prices of meat, are partly determined by the consumers’ existing value orientation and their existing consumption practices. Finally, we find that although providing information about the climate benefits of eating less meat has an effect on vegetable purchases, this does not seem to mobilise consumer action any more than the provision of information about the health benefits of eating less meat does. The article concludes that environmental policies aiming to transfer part of the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to food consumers is being challenged by the fact that most consumers are still not ready to make food choices based on what is best for the climate or environment.

Keywords: climate change; consumers; meat; sustainable consumption; environment; survey; focus group interviews; in-store experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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