The rise of meat consumption in the United States has been dramatic over
the past half century due to demographic changes. The increase in meat is visible in Mexico as well due to expanding economic interest in cattle production plus increased population and rising incomes. The worst consequences of our modern food system are in factory farming of animals, which requires a greater amount of resources than for producing grains, fruits, and vegetables. The specific effects of meat consumption highlight the importance of understanding humans as actors in the food system. In order to explore the drivers of consumer food and meat choice, my research answered the two questions: What factors influence meat consumption? and How do cultural and social norms influence decisions to consume certain types and amounts of meat?
Qualitative interviews were conducted with Mexican-American respondents between age 20 and 29 as the population of interest because of their regional dominance in the study area of Tempe, AZ and because of the high prevalence of meat in their cultural diets. Looking at millennials in particular is crucial because as the first generation born with technology and Internet as constants, they have formed unique characteristics like openness to change and new perspectives. My sample population communicated motivations and constraints to their overall consumption patterns and the frequency and types of meat consumed.
This study found that cost and convenience were the driving factors behind food choice, given the hectic schedules of the sample population, who were mostly students at Arizona State University. Culture played an important role in respondents' heavy meat consumption given their exposure to meat's centrality in traditional Mexican meals. Acculturation did not play an extensive role because prominent Mexican culture in the Southwest U.S. allowed respondents' families access to traditional food while living in the US. The lack of sustainability knowledge and its connection to food choice indicates the importance of marketing that contextualizes decreased meat consumption. Rather than focusing solely on environmental outcomes, marketing tools highlighting health, financial, and economic benefits of eating less meat would encourage more consumers to decrease consumption.