Can graphic warning labels reduce the consumption of meat?

Jan Andre Koch, Jan Willem Bolderdijk*, Koert van Ittersum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
171 Downloads (Pure)


The classification of red meat as “probably carcinogenic” and processed meat as “carcinogenic” was followed by pleas to place warning labels, akin to those used for tobacco products, onto meat products. These labels educate people about the health risks associated with the target behavior and are typically accompanied by graphic imagery that elicits disgust (e.g., a picture of blackened lungs). Although the emotion of disgust has been shown to be an effective tool to affect consumer attitudes toward meat, it remains unclear whether such graphic warning labels that recruit disgust would also affect people's intentions to reduce their meat consumption. Two experiments reveal that graphic warning labels, by recruiting disgust, can increase people's intention to reduce their current levels of meat consumption. However, by eliciting disgust, graphic warning labels can simultaneously trigger reactance: graphic images can make people feel they are being manipulated, thereby ironically decreasing meat-reduction intentions. In a final experiment, we aimed to circumvent reactance by providing disgusting information under the guise of trivia, thereby avoiding the perception that the disgusting information was meant to manipulate. Via this route, disgust becomes a potent tool to influence consumers' intentions to consume meat. Ethical concerns are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105690
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jan-2022


  • Consumer behavior change
  • Disgust
  • Graphic warning labels
  • Meat consumption

Cite this