How do 'norms perceptions' relate to meat consumption habits?

What we eat, when we eat, and where we eat is, like many other behaviours throughout our lives, influenced by our perceptions of what is normal. Our social norms are guided by the behaviour of others, which shapes how we feel we should act and what we should eat. Our personal norms, on the other hand, reflect the norms we believe we should follow – they are, in a sense, ‘internalised social norms.’

Norm perceptions around meat can be complex, and may vary dramatically. In the current climate, perceptions around meat​ linked to climate change and animal suffering​ are becoming more widespread as vegetarian and vegan markets grow, and yet cultural norms around eating meat are still fairly pervasive across many contexts. Thus, what people perceive as normal differs from group to group, and from individual to individual.

A new study​, published by the journal Appetite, looks into how one’s level of meat consumption can influence how they perceives norms. Using a sample of 1205 UK participants, it assessed how people viewed norms around eating meat.  

“Consumers are sensitive to what others do and find appropriate. But what we found is that what people find normal and appropriate in terms of eating meat differs across contexts and meat consumer groups,” Sofia Wolfswinkel, one of the researchers, told FoodNavigator.

Different consumption habits

The sample was split into four types of participant. Meat lovers consisted of 33% of the sample, and ate a relatively large amount of red and white meat, relatively low amount of fish, and close to no meat substitutes.