Modelling the effect of social networks in reducing meat consumption

Modelling the effect of social networks in reducing meat consumption

Friends eating together

Diets that are considered normal in the UK are largely meat-based.  Eating large quantities of meat can contribute to climate change; ruminants in particular produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, it is challenging to reduce meat consumption in the UK, as eating can have personal, social and cultural significance for people.

One way to approach this is to try and change the social perception of normal meat-eating behaviour using marketing campaigns. Using a computer simulation model to study interactions between social networks in a population (co-workers and household members), the aim was to find ways to encourage healthier and sustainable food choices.

Messages relating to health, the environment and animal welfare, could be altered in the computer model. Interestingly, only the health message reduced the meat consumption of the simulated population. Furthermore, employees who responded well to the health message, also influenced the food choices of their household.

Research from the Rowett confirms that consumers are willing to pay more for healthier meals, as well as meals with a lower carbon footprint. This work shows that results from the computer model are reliable. Models such as this allow behavioural responses to be studied in an artificial way, to test how real-world interventions may affect populations.

Want to read more? Our full case study was originally posted here.

This research was conducted Professor Jennie Macdiarmid, Dr Andrea Scalco, Dr Graham Horgan, Dr Tony Craig and Dr Stephen Whybrow.

Research funded by the Scottish Government as part of the Strategic Research Programme