Current patterns of meat consumption are considered to be unsustainable. Sustainable development may require that consumers choose to eat smaller quantities of meat as well as meat that is produced in a more sensible way. A policy tool directed at consumer behaviour is that of enhancing consumer-oriented transparency of the production chain. Transparency is expected to allow people to make more mindful consumption choices, in line with their personal values. As most dietary habits are deeply rooted in the past, an assessment of the effect of transparency on food choices requires a historical perspective to food culture. Such a perspective provides us with at least two trends of relevance to meat consumption: increased concern for animal welfare and an ongoing dissociation of meat from its animal origin. Combined, these two trends may interact to allow people to consume in ways that actually conflict with their personal values: their concern for animal welfare does not translate into corresponding food choices, as the product meat does not remind them of its animal origin. An experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that people sensitive to animal welfare will respond to increased salience of animal origin and of animal welfare, and that they will show this by either avoiding to buy meat or by favouring free range and organic meat. Results confirmed the expected effect. The effect was observed mainly among those with Universalistic values, which limits the ultimate prospects of transparency as a policy tool. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.