Consumers' motivational associations favoring free-range meat or less meat

J. de Boer, J.J. Boersema, H. Aiking

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present paper analyzed the motivational orientations of consumers who choose to eat (1) small portions of meat or (2) ethically distinctive meat, such as free-range meat, in relation to the motivational orientations of their opposites. Going beyond the conventional approach to consumer behavior, our work builds on recent insights in motivational psychology about the ways in which people may approach matches or avoid mismatches to the desired end-state of "getting enough nourishment by eating the right food". Consumers who tend to approach matches are often focused on choosing the best alternatives from their choice set (chronic promotion focus). Consumers who tend to avoid mismatches are often focused on rejecting unacceptable alternatives from their choice set (chronic prevention focus). Distinguishing these two motivational orientations provides a scientific basis for the aim to foster more sustainable food consumption and production patterns. Our approach involves a systematic analysis of consumers' goal orientations regarding meat choices. We examined how a sample of Dutch consumers (n = 939) described their chronic motivational orientations regarding food, their own meat choices and, about two weeks later, their promotion- and prevention-oriented associations favoring either small portions of meat and free-range meat or their opposites. Largely in line with our hypotheses we found that consumers with a chronic prevention orientation avoided the mismatch of "large portions". Also, those of them who paid the premium price of free-range meat considered eating "meat produced by intensive farming" a mismatch. Conversely, if consumers with a chronic promotion orientation paid the premium price of free-range meat, they considered this the best alternative from their choice set. Accordingly, choosing a small portion of meat was often approached with a prevention orientation and choosing free-range meat with either a prevention or a promotion orientation. These differences in motivational orientation underline that the pursuit of sustainability requires careful consideration of not just undesirable but also of desirable alternatives. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-860
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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