Cutting down on red meat: It's in the social media messaging

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  • Reducing global meat consumption is imperative to slow down climate change and benefit people’s health, research suggests
  • A recent study investigated the relationship between eating habits and information sent via Facebook Messenger about the environmental and health impacts of meat consumption
  • The researchers concluded that after receiving the messages, participants reduced their portions of red and processed meat

A growing body of research suggests that reducing meat consumption worldwide will positively benefit the environment and human health. 

The overconsumption of meat has been associated with various non-communicable diseases and is a driver of climate change through increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study conducted by researchers at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. 

The study, which was published in Frontiers in Psychology, explored the relationship between messages sent about the environmental and health impacts of meat consumption and the eating habits of 320 undergraduate students. 

The report states that the participants were divided into three experimental conditions and sent messages via the Facebook Messenger platform twice a day. 

The messages contained information about the positive impacts of consuming less red and processed meat on both the environment and human health. Moreover, participants completed a food diary each day for two weeks to track their meat consumption habits, according to the report.  

After the two week-intervention period, participants were sent a post-test survey on the Facebook Messenger platform and the researchers conducted a follow-up survey one month after the study was completed.

Positive findings 

Findings from the research revealed that the participants reduced their red and processed meat consumption from between seven to eight portions in the first week of the study before receiving the messages, to approximately four to five portions in the second week of the study. The results remained consistent after the follow-up survey one month later, the study states. 

Thus, providing information about the environmental and health impacts of meat consumption via the Facebook Messenger platform did change participants’ eating habits, the researchers concluded. 

Less meat, less dairy

The researchers also found that where participants reduced their consumption of red and processed meat, their willingness to consume less dairy also increased. This finding suggests a behavioural “spillover”, which occurs when one pro-environmental behaviour leads to another, according to the researchers. 

“This is a promising finding which suggests that reducing one’s red and processed meat consumption has the potential to encourage further dietary change,” the researchers concluded. 

READ | Getting your protein from plants a recipe for longevity 

READ | Healthier meals could mean fewer strokes and heart attacks

READ | EnviroHealth Tutorial 3: Going 'meat-light

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