Consumer issues and meat consumption : a study of the UK within a European context
In recent years a succession of food and health scares in the UK and elsewhere in Europe have resulted in consumers becoming more concerned about both the food they eat and aspects of the food chain over which they have little or no control. Many of these scares have been related to meat and meat products and, as a consequence, more and more people have reduced their meat consumption of have given up meat altogether. Although meat remains part of the diet for the majority of Europeans, the recent decline in the image of meat strongly suggests that there is now a real need for those involved in the meat industry to take steps to restore and retain consumer confidence in eating meat. This thesis investigates the factors which have had the most influence on meat consumption in Europe during the past two decades. The research is unique in that it takes both a multi-discliplinary and pan-European approach, examining economic and non-economic factors, as well as synthesising information from a variety of literature and statistical sources. Although the thesis is primarily concerned with meat consumption in the UK, reference is also made to the situation in some other Western European countries with emphasis on Germany. Comprehensive secondary research demonstrates how consumer issues are most likely to be responsible for recent changes in average per capita meat consumption. The importance of consumer attitudes is explored in depth, and consideration is given to various ways in which they can be measured and modelled. The results of attitudinal surveys are used to provide both a consumer and industry perspective of consumer attitudes to eating meat, and to highlight the importance of the consumer issues of healthy eating, food safety, animal welfare and vegetarianism. By testing Fishbein and Ajzen's Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) model, the consumer data confirm the hypothesis that consumer attitudes are important predictors of meat consumption. The concept of consumer confidence is discussed and a measure for it proposed. This enables consumer confidence to be incorporated into the TRA model, and thus provides a better understanding of the relationships between consumer confidence, consumer attitudes and meat consumption. It is proposed that rather than being another determinant of meat consumption, consumer confidence can best be conceptualised as the overall positive, negative or neutral feeling a consumer has towards eathing meat. The implications of the research findings for the many public and privately owned organisations associated with the meat industry are outlined. Based on the findings and conclusions of the thesis, an over-arching model, encapsulating the complex behaviour of meat consumption is proposed.