The farmers' dilemma: Meat, means, and morality

Appetite. 2021 Dec 1:167:105605. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105605. Epub 2021 Jul 23.


Evidence overwhelmingly supports the view that we need to drastically reduce our consumption of animal products for reasons related to the environment and public health, while moral concerns about the treatment of animals in agriculture are becoming ever more common. As governments increasingly recognize the need to change our food production and alternative protein products become more appealing to consumers, agriculture finds itself in a unique period of transition. How do farmers respond to the changing atmosphere? We present secondary analyses of qualitative and quantitative data to highlight some of the uncertainty and ambivalence about meat production felt throughout the farming community. Survey data from France and Germany reveals that in both countries, those who work in the meat industry have significantly higher rates of meat avoidance than those who do not work in the industry. While non-meat-industry workers are more likely to cite concerns for animals or the environment, meat industry workers more often cite concerns about the healthiness or safety of the products. Concurrently, interviews with people who raise animals for a living suggest that moral concerns among farmers are growing but largely remain hidden; talking about them openly was felt as a form of betrayal. We discuss these findings in the context of the ongoing agricultural transition, observe how tension has manifested as polarization among Dutch farmers, and offer some thoughts about the role of farmers in a new world of alternative proteins.

Keywords: Agriculture; Farmers; Farming; Meat; Meat alternatives; Protein transition.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Farmers*
  • Humans
  • Meat
  • Morals
  • Surveys and Questionnaires