That’s the conclusion of a US report that has established a correlation between media coverage of the way animals are treated and a loss of appetite for consuming them.
Published by Kansas State University, US Meat Demand: The Influence of Animal Welfare Media Coverage looked at newspaper and magazine articles on the issue dating from 1982 to 2008.
It shows that having read about the mistreatment of farmed animals or the conditions in which they were kept, people were less likely to buy pork or poultry – though not beef.
“While beef demand was found to not be directly influenced by increased media attention to animal welfare issues, this should not be interpreted as the beef industry being immune,” said Glynn Tonsor, the KSU agricultural economist who led the study.
And rather than switching to a different meat, those influenced by the stories were more likely to turn to meat-free options.
“As a whole, media attention to animal welfare has significant, negative effects on US meat demand,” says the report – meaning significant, positive effects for animal welfare.
It also highlights the increasing impact that consumers are having on the way the meat industry conducts its business, with US shoppers increasingly interested in how their food gets on to their plate. The study notes that information on animal welfare issues has been increasingly written about in the media over the timeline of the study.
Among the “core implications” of the findings is the need for meat producers to look after their animals better if they want to remain in business.
“Influence of media on total meat expenditure suggests beef, pork, and poultry producers may be well served by collaborating in recognizing and responding to changing societal pressures regarding animal well-being,” the report concludes.