Faunalytics asked, and U.S. consumers answered. Research shows that even if you trade indirect terms for meat like beef and pork for more explicit ones—like cow and pig to more accurately describe the meat—it does not affect consumer behavior.
Meat companies use indirect terms like beef and pork to distance consumers from animals. Despite the high hopes of researchers at Faunalytics, Sentient Media, and vegans everywhere, referring to meat by its animal explicit name does not make people care about the animals they’re consuming more, at least, not yet.
Unspecific names for pig products like bacon have been around much longer than any of the consumers Faunalytics surveyed have been alive. This tells us two things. 1. If pig meat was actually called pig meat in stores and not a hypothetical survey, the results may have been different. It takes time and real motivations to change consumer attitudes, especially towards the American’s staple ingredient—bacon.
Which brings up the second point. 2. It takes time to build sympathy for animals from a nation of meat eaters. Americans have called the underbelly of a pig by its own pig-free name for centuries. Bacon is not going to change overnight, but your willingness to eat it might.
Beef or pork cow or pig
Here’s how the Faunalytics study broke down. The wording of questions about what kind of animal participants ate split between beef for cow meat and pork for pig meat—or just cow and pig meat.
- There was no difference between those who said they ate beef or pork in the past year versus cow or pig.
- This continued for those asked how much beef or pork they ate. Calling it cow or pig made no difference.
- More specific wording might not mean as much to consumers as animal advocates would like it to—but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t mean something to you. Call it what it is! Pork is pig, beef is cow, and plants are, well, plants.
“Human animals will never know the extent to which non-human animals suffer,” writes Sentient Media’s very own Grant Lingel. “The disconnect that has stemmed from years of urbanization and food industry marketing has made us numb. Only few can truly accept the idea that all animals have the ability to truly suffer.”
There’s a lot in place to prevent consumers from ever accepting animal suffering, as shown by their unwillingness to budge on more pro-animal language. But imagine you’re a six-year-old kid grocery shopping with your parents for the first time. You ask what’s for breakfast tomorrow morning.
“Pig and eggs!” Rolls right off the tough. *sigh* Maybe that’s why the entire world has been conditioned to call pig meat something it’s not.
“It’s important to me that animals used for food are well cared for.”
The survey said that consumers felt no differently towards animals when using the more explicit names for the meat they chose to eat. If the lack of an accurate meat-animal connection starts in the minds of adolescent Americans at breakfast tables and in the aisles of Whole Foods, we have a long road to understanding the suffering that goes into every single package of bacon.
In recent year, it has become increasingly important for consumers that animals used for food are well cared for. And as infuriating as it sounds, what meat companies call dead animal parts does not seem to matter.
The meat industry could not care less for animal welfare. Meat companies design their entire operations around speed and efficiency to maximize profits. This always comes at the expense of animal welfare. When will we stop coveting money and start coveting lives?
Consumers felt little to no empathetic difference when using words like “slaughtered” or “killed” versus “harvested.” But given the first set of results, that should not be a surprise. What is surprising—and disturbing—is that consumers are comfortable with the slaughter… killing… harvest of animals for food. Nothing can rationalize animal suffering, but how we talk about the meat industry can normalize it.
[email protected]!K bacon. Plants are better.
You call broccoli—uh, broccili, right? What else would you call it—green veggie? Definitely not nutrient-packed green stalk. Sadly, that would not sell in today’s meat-driven market.
There is no reason for vegetable companies to deceive consumers about what kind of plant they are eating. Recently, plant-based meat ran into this exact problem. “Real” meat companies can call their products whatever they want, but when a plant-based meat company wants to call it meat, this happens.
Relentless as ever, meat companies sell “humane” meat that is far from humane to turn a profit. Human and animal health is second to monetary gain. The problems that stem from monopolized corporate interests in the big food industry extend far beyond food labels. Call it what you want—beef, pork, cow, pig. They’re all bad for you and they’re all in the way of a healthier, happier world for animals. Vegans are in a fight for their lives.
Bottom line: Why not let what we choose to eat today determine how it’s made tomorrow.
Matt is an award-winning independent journalist. His reporting has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, HuffPost, Vox, PBS, and NPR, among others.