Objective: The aim of this study was to examine consumers' perceived benefits and barriers to the consumption of a vegetarian diet.
Design: Survey (written questionnaire) that included questions on perceived benefits and barriers to the consumption of a vegetarian diet.
Setting: South Australia.
Subjects: Six hundred and one randomly selected South Australians.
Results: The main perceived barriers to adopting a vegetarian diet were enjoying eating meat and an unwillingness to alter eating habits. This was the case for men, women and all age groups, although there were sex and age differences present in over half of the barrier items. For example, family food preferences were a greater problem for women than for men, while the oldest group was more likely to agree that humans are ‘meant’ to eat meat than the younger groups. The main benefits associated with vegetarian diets were health benefits: increased fruit and vegetable intake, decreased saturated fat intake, weight control. Animal welfare-related benefits and disease prevention were also important. Age and sex differences were apparent, although age differences were more important than sex differences.
Conclusions: The majority of respondents perceived there to be health benefits associated with the consumption of a vegetarian diet, but also, predictably, enjoyed eating meat. Given this, it is likely that interest in plant-based diets that contain some meat is higher than that in no-meat diets. An understanding of the perceived benefits and barriers of consuming a vegetarian diet will allow the implementation of strategies to influence meat and vegetarianism beliefs, dietary behaviour and, hence, public health.