Protein choices are an important component of the environmental cost of the food system. It is important to consider the limited research done on protein choice decision making in college students. Students who are aware of their protein choices at the decision point in college may be more likely to practice sustainable food choices throughout their life.
To compare demographic, attitudinal and behavioral variables in college students between those who consistently think about the environmental impact of their protein choices (C) and those who are less concerned (L).
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Participants,18-24 years old, consenting to participate in this cross-sectional survey (n = 390), were recruited from introductory classes at a Northeastern university for extra credit. Participants were categorized by their response to “How often do you think about the impact of meat consumption on the environment?” with responses of “always” or “vegetarian” categorized as C and “sometimes” or “never” categorized as L.
Group (C and L) was compared using chi-square or t-test analysis for demographics, stage of change for environmentally conscious protein choice (EC), and green eating (GE), red meat consumption, and health consciousness.
Participants were predominantly white (83%) females (80%); the mean age was 19.2 years old. C was more likely to include women (95%) (P < .001), be post-action for EC and GE (43%, 64%) (P < .001, P < .001) and eat less red meat (77%) (P < .001) than L. C (50%) was more concerned about their long-term health than L (24%) (P < .001). There was no significant difference between C and L in race, class standing, major, or residence.
Students who consistently thought about the environmental impact of meat consumption differed from those who did not by sex, attitudes, and behavior, but future research is needed to determine if this is associated with a more sustainable lifestyle.