Understanding current meat consumption trends in Australia: An analysis of the factors leading to increasing vegetarianism in Australia


There is a growing societal trend for consumers in Western societies to become vegetarians and vegans. Additionally, a growing number of consumers are indicating that they are reducing the amount of meat they eat or shifting away from certain types of meat (e.g. red meat). From an economic perspective several questions are of relevance regarding farm animal welfare. If animal welfare is a driving concern for the trend toward a vegetarian or vegan diet will improvements in animal welfare lead consumers to return to eating meat? This question will be analysed and discussed based on the results of an online survey of a representative sample of 297 Australian meat consumers and 82 meat avoiders conducted in July 2016.

The focus of the survey is on understanding reasons for recent changes in meat consumption; and identifying the importance of animal welfare as a reason for vegetarian status relative to: health and food safety; environmental concerns; a desire to exhibit different social preferences and behaviour; religion and culture, among other reasons.

The results of the analysis are used to suggest whether members of this group are likely to change behaviour in the future as animal welfare standards improve or whether they will become large consumers of vegetarian products, including imitation meats. From a sustainability and health perspective it is worth knowing whether these other drivers of behaviour are becoming more important across time, perhaps eclipsing animal welfare as a driver of vegetarian preferences.

Project objectives

Information is lacking on how and why the Australian population is shifting their meat consumption patterns from meat eaters to vegetarians or flexitarians (semi-vegetarians). To fill this knowledge gap, the present study will address the following objectives:

To investigate changes made to meat consumption within the previous 12 months, and reasons for changes
To identify the importance of animal welfare concerns as a reason for reduced meat consumption relative to other concerns, and investigate whether future improvements in animal welfare standards are likely to lead to increased meat consumption.
To examine perceptions of meat-free diets/meal-options, and willingness to reduce or avoid meat consumption.

Project outputs

Malek, L., Umberger, W., Goddard, E. (2018) ‘Is Anti-consumption Driving Meat Consumption Changes in Australia?’ British Food Journal. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-03-2018-0183

Project partners

Professor Ellen Goddard, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada


GFAR researchers involved in this project:

Tagged in Projects:Healthy societies, Completed projects