Are you embarrassed when you order a large hamburger in a restaurant or would you rather say that you ate falafel yesterday than when you had a chicken leg? Then you can easily suffer from meat shame. This term is popping up more and more often, but what does the term actually mean?
Meat shame means, according to nutrition psychologist Diana van Dijken, that people feel that as a society we consume too much meat. "We feel guilty about that and we can be ashamed of our own meat consumption," she explains.
Van Dijken regularly comes across this in her practice. "People don't formulate it as much as shame, but sentences are often used in the style of:" I should really eat less meat. "Or:" I should do a day without meat a little more often. "
Van Dijken is guessing that about 20 percent of her clients suffer from shame about eating meat. Another 20 percent are already vegetarian or have a vegan diet and the remaining 60 percent do not worry about meat consumption.
"I only found it on Twitter"
Nutrition psychologist Lieveke Goossens has not yet seen it in her practice, but she does know the term. "The only place I've encountered it so far is on Twitter. But I think it's mostly something that occurs in youth and I'm already in my late forties."
Anyone who googles a round will notice that flight shame and climate shame also appear. Terms that are associated with consciously displaying environmentally unfriendly behavior, such as long and frequent showers while you know that this is bad for the environment. Or, for example, booking a flight holiday and then feeling guilty about the CO2 emissions of the flight.
Really something from the last years
Meat shame is according to nutrition psychologist Van Dijken really something of the last few years. According to her, people used to not eat much meat at all. Then it was still a luxury product. Consumers were rather proud if they could eat a steak once. But increasing prosperity means consumers are increasingly buying it, she says.
People who are ashamed of eating meat because they feel sorry for the animals have been around for longer, according to Goossens. But according to her, the real meat embarrassment of today has to do with our over-consumption. According to her, we are becoming increasingly aware of this. "At a certain point everything became saltier, sweeter, fatter and more. We now notice the consequences."
"Highlighting the negative sides of eating meat makes people think about their own meat consumption." Diana van Dijken, nutrition psychologist
Van Dijken points out that the media also play a major role in meat shame. "They are paying more and more attention to the importance of a vegetarian or vegan diet. There are many documentaries and many well-known Dutch people are now expressing their opinion about eating meat. The negative sides of eating meat are becoming increasingly better exposed and that makes people think about their own meat consumption. "
People are not good at changing habits quickly
According to Van Dijken, the question is whether that shame actually prevents them from eating that double hamburger. "Only if animal suffering or climate issues really touches someone personally, will the shame of the meat lead to a lower meat consumption. Much more often, good intentions or at most one day a week without meat."
Van Dijken does not see it happening in the near future that potatoes, vegetables and meat will no longer be put on the table. "I expect that more and more attention is being paid to the disadvantages of eating meat, which makes people really think about their role in the whole. But people are generally not so good at changing their habits quickly, so there is a good chance that it will take a long time before a diet in which meat is no longer central becomes the standard. "
Van Dijken expects that it will take a long time before meat is no longer central to the diet. (Photo: 123RF)
One in three Dutch people started eating less meat
One in three Dutch people started eating less meat in 2018, according to figures from NUpanel in January, a collaboration between NU.nl and Hettestpanel.nl. Nutrition coach and dietician Jonathan Klaassen then said that he recognizes this image from his practice. A quarter of his clients wanted to learn to eat less meat. A few years ago those figures were very different.
Roel Hermans, nutrition and behavior expert at the Netherlands Nutrition Center, said that the norm regarding meat is changing. According to him, that could eventually cause less animal products to be eaten, but that is not yet the case. According to Hermans, mainly low-skilled men eat relatively much meat.