Personality and attitudinal correlates of meat consumption: Results of two representative German samples
In this study, researchers investigated the interplay between meat consumption and personality traits, political views, and environmental attitudes.
Two representative samples from the German population were examined to (1) understand the relationships between meat consumption and sociodemographic variables, the Big Five personality traits (i.e. openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism), political attitudes, and pro-environmental attitudes; (2) test whether personality traits and attitudes are associated with meat intake when accounting for socio-demographic factors; and (3) analyse the association of the above variables with meat consumption.
In the first study, data was collected from surveys of private households and people provided by the German Socio-Economic Panel of the German Institute for Economic Research. The study sampled 5127 individuals (52.5% female, 47.5% male) who self-reported how often they consumed meat through a 6-point scale. The socio-demographic variables analysed were age, sex, household after-tax income and education. The Big Five personality traits were measured using a German version of the Big Five Inventory (15-item BFI-S). Partial correlations and the hierarchical regression analysis were the methods used to control for socio-demographics and analyse association among variables.
The results demonstrated that:
- Meat consumption was negatively correlated with female sex, age, and education. Men, younger, and less educated people reported eating more meat than female, older, and more educated individuals.
- There was no significant association between meat consumption and household after-tax income.
- Less ‘open’ and less ‘agreeable’ individuals reported more meat consumption. This correlation did not hold for neuroticism when sociodemographic variables were controlled.
- Political conservatism was significantly and positively associated with meat consumption.
In the second study, the same methods were used on a dataset provided by the German Gesellschaft Sozialwissenschaftlicher Infrastruktureinrichtungen (GESIS). This dataset comprised 3752 individuals (52.4% females, 47.6% males) who reported how frequently they consumed meat in the previous month. After controlling for sociodemographic variables, the results showed that:
- Meat consumption was again negatively correlated with female sex, age, and education.
- Meat consumption was not associated with household after tax income.
- Openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness were negatively associated with meat consumption.
- Meat consumption was positively associated with conservatism, social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism.
- People who scored low on pro-environmental attitudes reported higher meat intakes.
Both studies demonstrate that variance in meat consumption can be associated with socio-demographics, personality traits, and attitudes. Their findings are consistent with previous research on this subject. Previous research has shown that men usually eat more meat because they perceive it as masculine; more ‘open’ and ‘agreeable’ people eat less meat due to health and ethical concerns and a greater willingness to try new foods; highly educated individuals consume less meat also because of health concerns; and pro-environmental individuals also eat less meat due to meat consumption’s negative impact on the environment.
However, some findings that were inconsistent with former research. Previous studies have shown that young people tend to eat less meat - in contrast with the findings of this study. The authors argue that, in this study, older people may have lower meat consumption because they tend to eat less food overall. Likewise, the inconsistency related to the association of meat intake and conscientiousness could be attributed to: (1) the use of different measurements related to the Big Five personality traits, (2) the different time spans assessed by the studies (in the first study, meat consumption was assessed via the question “How often do you consume meat, fish, poultry, or sausages?” whereas in the second study it was assessed via the question “When you think about the last four weeks: On how many days per week have you normally eaten meat, including poultry and various meat products such as sausages or cold cuts?”); (3) and because the second study did not include fish as part of the definition of meat.
The main strength of this article was its use of a representative sample to investigate correlations and to make comparisons related to meat intake. The main limitations were: (1) its use of self-reported behaviour data; (2) the fact that no causal relationship can be concluded due to its cross-sectional design; (3) the findings are limited to the German population.
The vast amount of meat consumed in the Western world is critically discussed with regard to negative health consequences, environmental impact, and ethical concerns for animals, emphasizing the need to extend knowledge regarding the correlates of meat consumption in the general population. In the present article, we conducted two studies examining the associations between meat consumption and personality traits, political attitudes, and environmental attitudes in two large German representative samples (Ntotal = 8,879, aged 18–96 years). Cross-sectional data on frequency of meat consumption, socio-demographics, personality traits, and political and environmental attitudes were collected via self-reports. In both studies, male sex, younger age, and lower educational attainment were significantly positively related to meat consumption. In Study 1, results of the partial correlations and the hierarchical regression analysis controlling for socio-demographics showed that the personality traits of openness and agreeableness, as well as conservative political and social views, explained unique variance in meat consumption. In Study 2, partial correlations and hierarchical regression analyses showed that openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were all uniquely negatively related to meat consumption. Moreover, these analyses documented that people scoring high in right-wing attitudes and low in pro-environmental attitudes reported more overall meat consumption. Taken together, these two studies provided evidence that socio-demographics, personality traits, and attitudes are indeed related to how much meat is consumed. Implications and future prospects for the study of individual differences in meat consumption are discussed.
Pfeiler, T.M. and Egloff, B., 2018. Personality and attitudinal correlates of meat consumption: Results of two representative German samples. Appetite, 121, pp. 294-301.
Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.
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