Do EU consumers think about meat reduction when considering to eat a healthy, sustainable diet and to have a role in food system change?

Joop de Boer*, Harry Aiking

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper aims to highlight the position of meat reduction in what EU consumers think “eating a healthy and sustainable diet” involves and who has a role to play in achieving food system change. The data are based on the Eurobarometer 93.2 survey (mid 2020). The participants were asked to make their own selections out of a variety of food-related items and actors, linked to meat (“Eating meat less often”) and other aspects of diets (“Eating more fruit and vegetables”). Their responses were analyzed separately in two EU regions: Northwest Europe—consisting of the 10 richest EU countries with the highest scores on economic and social sustainable development indicators— and the East and the South. Three principal components of dietary thinking were distinguished, relating to 1) nutrition issues, 2) easy “light green” issues and 3) more demanding “deeper green” issues, respectively. The analysis also distinguished three types of actors in the value chain (food chain actors, supporting actors, and governmental actors). In Northwestern Europe, a majority of consumers saw a role for themselves in making the food system more sustainable and a large minority saw meat reduction as part of a healthy and sustainable diet. Both responses were much less common in the East and South. In the Northwest, meat reduction was relatively strongly related to “deeper green” thinking but also weakly to nutrition-focused thinking, whereas the opposite was found in the East and South. However, meat reduction had no prominent position in their considerations. For policy-makers, therefore, it is crucial that both nutrition and environment can be motivating factors for consumers to consider meat reduction, albeit to different degrees.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105880
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Early online date21 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. It should be mentioned that the fieldwork of this study has been done under difficult pandemic circumstances. This required a lot of effort and commitment from the organizers, the fieldworkers and the participants, which we acknowledge with gratitude.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Consumer
  • Health
  • Protein
  • Responsibility
  • Sustainability

VU Research Profile

  • Science for Sustainability


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