Meat Consumption in Rural America: Frequent Consumption Reflects Attitudes and Norms Associated with Hunting and Agricultural Livestock Production

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Meat consumption in America exceeds current recommendations and, in rural areas, the custom of hunting and agricultural livestock production may contribute to attitude and norms underlying consumption of meat overall, lean meat and hunted wild game. In the present study, a mixed methods approach applied the Theory of Planned Behavior to explore meat consumption in rural regions. Qualitative, semi-structed interviews were conducted (n=10) and iteratively coded for key themes. Qualitative findings informed the development of an online survey, which measured attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral controls, consumption, and intention to consume meat overall, lean meat, and wild game on sample (n=572) of residents from 12 counties in rural New York State. Consistent with key qualitative themes, survey respondents reported strong, favorable attitudes and beliefs towards meat overall which moderately correlated with higher meat consumption, as well as family norms of daily meat consumption. Survey respondents held strong attitudes towards lean meat, which weakly correlated with consumption, and moderate attitudes towards wild game, which was infrequently consumed. T-tests showed stronger positive attitudes and norms towards meat and higher meat consumption among individuals from households with hunters, as well as individuals with some relationship to agricultural livestock production. This study provides evidence that rural Americans, especially those connected to hunting and livestock production, hold strong positive attitudes towards meat, consistent with family norms, and usually consume it daily. Further, these results suggest a gap between DGA recommendations to consume moderate amounts of mostly lean meat and the beliefs and dietary patterns of rural individuals. Registered dietitian nutritionists and community nutrition educators should approach excess meat consumption among rural clients by suggesting incremental strategies such as portion size reduction rather than promoting vegetarian options. Future research should explore the relationships of attitudes and family norms with overall dietary quality among rural and urban residents, as well as validate our novel tools to measure wild game consumption.

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theory of planned behavior; Hunting; Meat; Social research; Nutrition; rural; consumption; Agriculture


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Hanson, Karla

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Sobal, Jeffery

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M.S., Nutrition

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Master of Science

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dissertation or thesis

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