Prescribing vegetarian or flexitarian diets leads to sustained reduction in meat intake

Appetite. 2021 Sep 1:164:105285. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105285. Epub 2021 Apr 27.


Many people agree that reducing the consumption of meat has good ends (e.g., for animal welfare, the environment, and human health). However, the question of which advocacy strategies are most effective in enabling wide-spread meat reduction remains open. We explored this by prescribing four different meat reduction diets to omnivorous participants for a seven-day adherence period, and studied their meat consumption over time. The diets included a Vegetarian diet, and three flexitarian diets (Climatarian - limit beef and lamb consumption; One Step for Animals - eliminate chicken consumption; Reducetarian - reduce all meat consumption). Results showed pronounced differences between groups in meat consumption during the adherence period, where the Vegetarian group ate significantly less meat than the flexitarian groups. All groups decreased their meat intake in the weeks following the adherence period compared to baseline, however, there were no significant group differences in the level of decrease over time. Participants also changed their attitudes toward meat and animals from pre-to post-intervention, and decreases in commitment toward and rationalization of meat-eating partially mediated change in meat intake. These findings reveal that the diet assignments had some impact on participants' meat consumption and attitudes even after the prescribed adherence period had ended. However, the sustained decrease in consumption did not vary depending on what meat reduction strategy was originally used.

Keywords: Behavior change; Flexitarianism; Meat consumption; Meat reduction; Vegetarianism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Humans
  • Meat
  • Sheep
  • Vegetarians*