The 4 Excuses People Use to Justify Eating Meat

<a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/man-eating-steak-10544064?st=feeb6c0">Robert Ingelhart</a>/iStock

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


There are plenty of reasons to stop eating meat: Fears over growing numbers of terrifying superbugs that have sprung out of our antibiotic-ridden meat supply, objections to the horrifying conditions factory-farmed animals are subjected to, and concerns over health risks posed by meat consumption (for both people and the planet)—to name just a few.

Around 90 percent of people who eat meat say they do so for one or more of four reasons: It’s natural, necessary, normal, and nice.

Given all this, meat eaters increasingly find themselves having to defend their diet. Now, a team of international researchers has identified the four most common excuses they use. According to a report published last month in the behavior nutrition journal, Appetite, around 90 percent of people who eat meat use these “four Ns” to justify their diets:

  1. It’s natural. People have always eaten meat. Why stop now?
  2. It’s necessary. Without meat, it’s impossible to get enough protein and other nutrients.
  3. It’s normal. Almost everyone eats meat, and I don’t want to be different.
  4. It’s nice. Meat is delicious!

The researchers conducted six separate studies to find out more about how the four Ns play a role in helping meat-eaters rationalize their diet and how their beliefs can tell us more about the behaviors that drive them.

They found that those who endorsed the four Ns the most strongly cared about fewer species of animals, were less likely to consider the moral implications of their food choices, and also showed less concern for issues not related to diet, like social inequality. The studies also showed that four-N advocates experience less guilt than responders who showed ambivalence—and that the more someone believes in the four Ns, the less willing he or she is to cut back on meat consumption in the future.

The authors point out that insights into these attitudes reveal more than just the “why” behind meat consumption; they highlight where there might be opportunities to change beliefs—and ultimately behaviors. Though researchers found that “necessary” and “nice” were the most strongly voiced defenses and might be most difficult to overturn, Americans are eating much less meat than they used to, and cultural movements like Meatless Monday have made it clear that people can at least be convinced to cut back. Plus it doesn’t hurt that vegetarian fare has come a long way in the tastiness department.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate