Impact of Health, Environmental, and Animal Welfare Messages Discouraging Red Meat Consumption: An Online Randomized Experiment

  • Anna H. Grummon
    Address correspondence to: Anna H. Grummon, PhD, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 20115.
    Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Aviva A. Musicus
    Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Meg G. Salvia
    Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Anne N. Thorndike
    Division of General Internal Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

    Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Eric B. Rimm
    Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

    Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

    Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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Published:October 09, 2022DOI:



      Reducing red meat consumption is a key strategy for curbing diet-related chronic diseases and mitigating environmental harms from livestock farming. Messaging interventions aiming to reduce red meat consumption have focused on communicating the animal welfare, health, or environmental harms of red meat. Despite the popularity of these 3 approaches, it remains unknown which is most effective, as limited studies have compared them side by side.


      Our aim was to evaluate responses to red-meat–reduction messages describing animal welfare, health, or environmental harms.


      This was an online randomized experiment.


      In August 2021, a convenience sample of US adults was recruited via an online panel to complete a survey (n = 2,773 nonvegetarians and vegans were included in primary analyses).


      Participants were randomly assigned to view 1 of the 4 following messages: control (neutral, non–red meat message), animal welfare, health, or environmental red-meat–reduction messages.

      Main outcome measures

      After viewing their assigned message, participants ordered hypothetical meals from 2 restaurants (1 full service and 1 quick service) and rated message reactions, perceptions, and intentions.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Logistic and linear regressions were performed.


      Compared with the control message, exposure to the health and environmental red-meat–reduction messages reduced red meat selection from the full-service restaurant by 6.0 and 8.8 percentage points, respectively (P = .02 and P < .001, respectively), while the animal welfare message did not (reduction of 3.3 percentage points, P = .20). None of the red-meat–reduction messages affected red meat selection from the quick-service restaurant. All 3 red-meat–reduction messages elicited beneficial effects on key predictors of behavior change, including emotions and thinking about harms.


      Red-meat–reduction messages, especially those describing health or environmental harms, hold promise for reducing red meat selection in some types of restaurants. Additional interventions may be needed to discourage red meat selection across a wider variety of restaurants, for example, by making salient which menu items contain red meat.


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      A. H. Grummon is a research scientist, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a research fellow, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA.


      A. A. Musicus is a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA.


      M. G. Salvia is a doctoral student, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA.


      A. N. Thorndike is an associate professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and an associate professor, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.


      E. B. Rimm is a professor, Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a professor, Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.