In this paper, FCRN member Gesa Biermann uses a survey of German consumers to explore the different meanings and expectations attached to eating at home and eating in restaurants. The study shows that meat-eating is more common in restaurants than at home, for example 59% of flexitarian respondents ate more meat at a restaurant than at home. This is attributed to perceptions of eating meat in restaurants being an opportunity to treat oneself and celebrate special occasions. The paper suggests that to encourage plant-based eating in restaurants, the meaning of plant-based foods must become more aligned with notions of “the good life” (for example, relating to ideas about hospitality, generosity and pleasure).
Many sociological accounts of life in the 21st century include reflections on the dissolution of distinctions between the public and private sphere, aided by social media and information technology. In this paper, we argue that everyday practices around the consumption of food continue to display strong home/out-of-home divisions, especially regarding the consumption of meat and its deeply rooted social meanings. Using data from a German online survey on food preparation and consumption practices, we report and critically examine empirical evidence of significant differences between public and private food consumption. In addition to divergent meanings, we pay particular attention to environmental impacts related to the resource implications of eating in or out. For many, eating out in a restaurant means to treat oneself to something special. Cultural links between eating meat and the celebration of special occasions, the role of meat as a signifier of hospitality, and meat consumption as an expression of high social status leads to considerable resource implications for the practice of eating out and hosting guests. This, in turn, throws up interesting questions regarding the (in)effectiveness of sustainable food campaigns, many of which have hitherto ignored the distinction between public and private consumption. We conclude by arguing for strategies that connect the consumption of plant-based dishes to already established social practices such as hosting guests, barbecuing or celebrating special occasions.
Biermann, G. and Rau, H., 2020. The meaning of meat:(Un) sustainable eating practices at home and out of home. Appetite, p.104730.